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Hotline Miami (Горячая Линия Майами in the cyrillic alphabet) is a 2012 game by Jonatan "cactus" Söderström and Dennis Wedin (Dennaton Digital), published by Devolver Digital. Initially released for Windows, it was later ported to OSX, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.

You wake up in the bathroom of a dingy apartment. The lights are out, and an oppressive atmosphere fills the air. You step out and are greeted by a trio of masked figures who begin to ask questions you don't know the answers to. The woman in the horse mask is concerned for you, and the man in the owl mask hates you - but only the man in the chicken mask knows who you are, and why you're here.

Pause. Rewind.

It is the spring of 1989. Tensions between the US and Russia are at an all-time high in the wake of the "Russo-American Coalition," and The Mafiya has cemented itself as the most powerful organized crime ring in Miami. You don't get out much, and your only friend is a guy with a beard who works at the grocery store. One day, you receive a strange message on your answering machine telling you that your order of baking ingredients has arrived, and that you should follow the recipe carefully.


Problem is, you didn't order anything. The "ingredients" are rubber animal masks, the "recipe" a cryptic note instructing you to perform a hit on some Russian mobsters and await further orders on your answering machine, threatening consequences if you don't follow through. From then on, it's a downward spiral as you continue killing at the behest of the voicemails, struggling to stay sane and survive, all the while hoping that maybe - just maybe - you'll find out what the hell is going on.

Gameplay is simple - it is a top-down 2-D action game with movement by WASD and a few other buttons for killing. All you have to do is kill all enemies and not be killed, although this is easier said than done. Why? You die within one hit. And you will die plenty of times.

Following its release, the game received widespread acclaim, and was widely considered one of the best indie games of its time. It gained a substantial amount of attention from development company Overkill Software, makers of PAYDAY: The Heist and PAYDAY 2, whose love for Hotline has resulted in numerous Shout Outs to it into the latter game. This culminated in a series of collaborations between Dennaton and Overkill, including a crossover heist featuring the Miami Mafiya and the appearance of Jacket as a Guest Fighter.


Has a sequel, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, that serves as a pseudo-Mind Screwdriver to the game's Jigsaw Puzzle Plot.

Dayjob Studios has published a comic series called Hotline Miami: Wildlife that is set in the Hotline Miami universe.

Hotline Miami contains examples of:

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  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Any sufficiently-long blade can cut mooks in half, lop off their heads, etc. Shorter blades can still eviscerate and disembowel mooks with one slice, and a thrown knife will instantly kill anyone it hits, regardless of its speed, should it land blade-first.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: In the epilogue, the Biker spots a custodian scurrying into the basement of a building. He follows and discovers an underground waterway full of masks, building floor plans, and phones.
  • Acrofatic: Thugs and Inspectors are much larger than the average mobster or policeman, but run just as fast (if not faster) and can easily corner you. It doesn't help that they have hefty doses of Kevlard as well, which makes them immune to melee weapons.
  • The Alleged Car: After Jacket wakes up from his coma and goes back home, his car's been trashed beyond belief.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Richter eventually turns up at Jacket's apartment. He murders Jacket's girlfriend, then reclines his legs in the living room until Jacket returns, whereupon he shoots him in the head and puts him into a coma.
  • Alternate History: A subtle one; the point of divergence or even what that divergence was is vague at best. The Big Bads are motivated with breaking up a Russo-American Coalition in 1989, so it can be assumed the Cold War played out differently, at least.
  • Anachronic Order: Subtle, and more as a way to represent the protagonist's increasingly obvious psychosis than anything else. The missions appear to take place in chronological order, but the after-mission sequences (during which the protagonist drives to a supermarket, pizzeria, video store etc.) take place out of chronological order, with characters in these sequences referring to events that don't take place until several missions later. For example, after the first mission the protagonist chats with a supermarket clerk who laments the protagonist's loss of his girlfriend. It turns out the reason this happens is because Jacket's in a coma.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: The final levels have you controlling the helmet-wearing boss you fought in "Neighbors", discovering the truth behind the answerphone messages.
  • Angry Guard Dog: One of the main enemy types, immune to punching (unless you have fists of fury), door-slams, and thrown weapons.
  • Animal Motifs: The killers wear animal masks. Each mask grants the player a perk: good, bad or just plain weird.
  • Another Side, Another Story: After beating the game, you get one last set of chapters as The Biker.
  • Arc Words: "Do you like hurting other people?"
    • "You have *one* new message."
    • One that isn't explained until the second game: every time you meet Beard, he gives you something from the store he's working at, saying that "it's on the house." In the second game, it's revealed that those words are what he said to Jacket when he saved Jacket's life during their tour of duty in Hawaii.
  • Artificial Brilliance: Enemies sometimes will pursue you if you get close enough, even if they're facing directly away from you.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Enemies sometimes don't react at all when someone gets killed right next to them. They also won't react to corpses on the floor. Finally, they will gladly rush into a situation that is getting their comrades killed en-mass. Lampshaded in one of the loading screens: "Enemies are Predictable"
  • Artistic License – Cars: Jacket's car is heavily based on the DeLorean but it appears to have pop-up headlights like you would see on a Pontiac Trans Am or a Toyota AE86, a staple of 1980's sports cars, but the DeLorean itself never had them. However, it resembles the Bricklin SV-1, the DeLorean's Spiritual Predecessor, which did have pop-up headlights (but no louvres over the rear window).
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Carl mask gives you a unique weapon (a power drill) and a cool execution (worth a lot of points), but the drill's animation is lengthy and leaves you vulnerable for a few seconds while using it.
  • Badass Biker: The second boss, the biker.
  • Batman Gambit: The janitors relied on hitmen who'd be easily recruited - such as the Biker, whose idea of fun is 'violent murder' - and would keep them in line by tricking them into believing there would be consequences if they don't make a hit.
  • Batter Up!: The very first weapon Jacket gets to try out.
  • Battle Butler: Some of the mooks in the Hotel level are hotel servers carrying what appears to be food on platters, until they proceed to pull out an uzi when they notice you.
  • The Berserker: The riskier your playstyle, the higher your score.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: The local chief of The Mafiya shoots himself rather than be on the receiving end of one of Jacket's finishing moves.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: The horse mask being named "Don Juan" is probably a reference to this trope.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Jacket's enemies are certainly some nasty characters, shown to have chopped up and mutilated people, kidnapped drug-addicted women, etc., but Jacket himself is not sure he is in the right.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Wearing Phil (the fish mask) during a mission will play the dialogues in French. However, the translation figures many grammatical mistakes and literal translation being incorrect. This is due to the fact that the (Swedish) developers translated the dialogue through an application named... Babelfish. Because of it, wearing the mask may end confusing to native french players, such as the instruction "Get to the bike" resulting in "Allez au vélo", which means "Go to the bicycle".
  • Blood Knight: The biker's idea of fun and excitement is murdering people.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Jones the alligator mask leaves lakes of blood after killing enemies, no matter which weapon you'll use.
  • Bodyguard Babes: After Jacket kills the panthers in "Showdown," the Ninja Girl tells the mob boss to "Leave him to me," and a fight will commence. She uses throwing knives at range and a sword for close quarters.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The basic knife doesn't seem very sexy when things like shotguns, katanas, and machetes are available, but it's probably the most useful weapon in the game. With decent range and the highest swing speed in the game, you can basically just keep clicking attack and simply walk through all your enemies to slice them up. With other melee weapons you have to properly time your swings, or else end up missing and being brained by your opponent's own weapon. Additionally, throwing it will kill a lot of enemies in one hit, whereas other thrown weapons will only knock them down.
    • Some of the masks have to be utilised in the right way in order to work. The George mask lets you see further than the average mask, perfect for strategy building but doesn't offer any offensive uses. The Zack mask lets you build combos but you need a strategy in advance for it to work properly. The Willem mask lets you disarm opponents and have a unique execution but it requires stealth in order to work effectively.
  • Boss Arena Idiocy: The two water fountains in the room provide cover from the final boss' MP5s. He will periodically reload and will be vulnerable for a few moments while he does. Upon her death, the mob boss' lieutenant (Ninja Girl) drops 3 throwing knives that are required to defeat him.
  • Bullfight Boss: The second boss, the biker.
  • But Thou Must!: When you reach the final boss, Jacket will throw away any weapon he has, even if you used a mask like Dennis or Richter that gives you a weapon from the start. You have to use the trophy to fight the boss.
  • Camp Straight: The biker wears a pink vest and has interesting choices in furniture. However, he also seems to have female lover(s) at his apartment between missions.
  • Car Fu: The third boss tries to do this to Jacket.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A very subtle one: the pamphlets for the "50 Blessings" organization, that can be found in both the protagonists' apartments. Most players won't even notice them, but in the Golden Ending they turn out to play a pivotal role in the plot.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The three masked men in the cutscenes. "Richard" is enveloped in a yellow hue, "Don Juan" is blue, and "Rasmus" is blood red.
  • Cool Car: Jacket's car closely resembles the Toyota A60 Celica Supra with gullwing doors reminiscent of the DMC-12.
  • Contract on the Hitman: The Biker has the same employers as Jacket; when he wants out and begins to sabotage their plans, Jacket is sent to clean up the mess. Later on, a rat-masked killer is dispatched to off Jacket. It doesn't stick. It later turns out this technically wasn't the case - they sent Jacket to Phonehom to kill the Biker when he was interfering with his employers' plans, but the Janitors outright admit that nothing but empty threats keep the hitmen in line.
  • Cop Killer: Jacket kills dozens of cops in an assault on a police station, in order to find Richter and gain information on the people who've been sending him phone calls.
  • Creator Cameo: The dialogue from the janitors alludes to indie game development, since the two resemble cactus and Dennis. And yes, you can murder them.
    Biker: Who are you working for?
    Dennis: No one, haha!
    cactus: We're independent, we did it all ourselves!
    Dennis: Hard to believe isn't it?
    • The unkillable DJ on the dance floor? It's Perturbator, who wrote the song "Miami Disco" that's the level's song.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Some of the finishing moves are this. For example, pouring a pan full of boiling water down a mook's throat.
  • Death by Irony:
    • The third boss is finished off by being set on fire with one of his own molotov cocktails.
    • The janitors accidentally provide one of their assassins with the clues and the means to track them down and kill them.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: PRESS 'R' TO RESTART. (from the last checkpoint, and the checkpoints are quite abundant)
  • Decoy Protagonist: The story is centered around Jacket, his madness and his quest for revenge. The answers for what's going on belong to the Biker.
  • Defeat Means Playable:
    • The cops confiscate Richter's weapon and mask once he's taken into custody. This rat mask can be found and collected on the top floor of the precinct. If worn, Jacket starts the chapter with a silenced Uzi, the same weapon Richter used to kill his girlfriend.
    • Jacket must kill the Biker in the course of the storyline, which results in a series of chapters in which the player plays as the Biker near the end of the game - in one of which the Biker kills Jacket. Um... what?
    • Somewhat explained in the sequel; Biker wins, but Jacket managed to pull a miracle survival.
  • Degraded Boss: The Scary Black Man type enemy returns as an Elite Mook who is immune to melee and can take a bit more gunfire.
  • Determinator: Jacket, to the point that even after he wakes up from a coma, he still manages to sneak out of the hospital while barely conscious and go all the way back home. He jumps straight into his old clothes and gets right back to killing.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: The individuals behind the phone calls.
  • Disposable Woman: The Jacket's girlfriend barely gets any characterization, and in fact, cannot even be talked to after she is first rescued, before getting Stuffed in the Fridge.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The biker is an interesting case, in that he fights back against the organization because he is bored with their agenda.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The events of the game are orchestrated by two janitors.
  • The Dragon: The well-dressed ninja woman is the dragon to the local head of The Mafiya.
  • Dramatic Unmask: The Biker, after you defeat him in the lobby at Phonehom. The bald clerk from Jacket's hallucinations is later revealed, upon bursting in on his jail cell, to be Richter, the hitman who shot the player's girlfriend.
  • The Dreaded: Jacket is this, to the point where the local police chief barricades himself in with four other cops and tries to reassure them that they will all survive.
  • Drone of Dread: Once you have completed your objectives in a level, the soundtrack cuts out and is replaced with a low, buzzing drone as you make your way out of the building, probably intended to symbolize the rush of adrenaline and psychosis wearing off when there's no more killing to be done.
  • Eagleland: 50 Blessings, which is Type 2, for America. They do not like the thought of America forming a coalition with Russia.
  • Early Game Hell: First-time players will most likely get their ass kicked during the early levels. When they get used to it... it gets harder.
  • Easter Egg: The Driver's jacket can be seen in the Prelude Chapter at the apartment.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Biker, despite joining the hotline for violent thrills, is baffled at the senseless killings. In the Golden Ending, the Biker's still not impressed: he dismisses the 50 Blessings as a bunch of "nationalist scumbags," and if the player decides to kill them, it's certainly this. He also can choose to spare the workers at Phonehom and leave the people who gave him information on the conspiracy alive. Compare Jacket, who spares a grand total of one person and would have shot his way out of the hospital, if he wasn't half-dead.
  • Evil Is Hammy: In contrast to Jacket's role as The Quiet One/Silent Protagonist, Biker is very flamboyant and confrontational, and seems to enjoy shaking the life out of the pig-masked assassin in his apartment, and very dramatically threatens Jacket.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Russian mobs vs. the two janitors. The former are made of thugs and The Mafiya, who engage in criminal activities and slave rings. The latter are ultra-nationalist thugs who recruit psychotic hitmen - if they don't intimidate them - and dispose of them and their loved ones when their job is finished.
  • Excuse Plot: A critical examination of this concept. The only context the protagonist receives for the murders he has to commit is a series of disjointed messages left on the answering machine on his phone. As the game goes on, it starts to point out how crazy someone would have to be to commit so many murders at the behest of messages on an answering machine, and suggesting that the protagonist doesn't really care about why he's committing the murders - he just enjoys the violence for its own sake. And yes, these observations are directed just as much at the player as the protagonist. An alternate reading proposed by Errant Signal argues that the Excuse Plot is the entire point of the game, and that the game is built upon stating by implication that narrative is meaningless to gameplay.
  • Evil Cripple: The head of the local Mafiya is wheelchair bound.
  • Executive Suite Fight: Against the Russian Mafiya boss, the last fight of Jacket's storyline. He unleashes his pet panthers against you, then his kunoichi bodyguard, and then he starts spraying bullets everywhere.
  • Exposition Fairy: A hobo leads you though a series of rooms to outline the game's controls. He later appears at the end of the first level, where Jacket kills him in a panic.
  • Eye Scream: The finishing move on the first boss is to gouge out his eyes. Using the scissors or dart as a melee weapon gives you the option of knocking an enemy down and jamming them into their skulls through their sockets. Jacket also starts hallucinating corpses whose eyes are missing.
  • Face Death with Dignity: A few of the NPCs certainly do: namely, the hitman who killed your girlfriend, the two Mafiya leaders, and the janitors.
  • Fission Mailed: "Deadline" concludes with Jacket returning home to find another killer waiting for him. The R to Restart! prompt appears here, but it's a scripted event.
  • Flunky Boss: The third boss, as well as the final one, who relies on two pet jaguars, a ninja hitwoman, and then dual uzis.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The title screen being in Cyrillic; the significance of this is revealed in the Golden Ending.
    • At one point, the omnipresent bearded clerk mentions Jacket being down about losing his girlfriend. Guess what happens to the Hooker just before The Reveal?
    • In the sewer where you find the crocodile mask, the dying hitman you find tries to convince himself it's just a dream. The first four-fifths of the game is the main character's coma dream.
    • When confronted by Jacket, The Underboss remarks, "You must be one of the assholes killing my men." It sounds like there are more assassins on the loose.
  • Foreign-Looking Font: Averted. During the title screen, a much bigger text in Cyrillic figures above "Hotline Miami", which says "горяая линия маиами". The latter simply means the exact same thing, but in Russian.
  • For the Evulz: This is how the Biker was recruited: he got his kicks killing.

  • Gangsta Style: Everyone holds SMGs and pistols this way.
  • The Generic Guy: Richard the Rooster, who is the only animal mask to have no special abilities. He probably represents Jacket's true self.
  • Genre Throwback: To violent 80's action films like Thief, as well as to films such as Drive (2011) (to the point where Nicolas Winding Refn is specially-thanked in the credits).
  • Golden Ending: Finding all puzzle pieces in each level will unlock an ending, where it turns out the two Janitors are part of a conspiracy to break up a Russo-American alliance. Player interpretations of the ending differ.
  • Golf Clubbing: Complete with a finishing move where Jacket tees-off a boss's head.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Always an option, especially if you can get the drop on a lone enemy. Tony the Tiger makes your unarmed attacks lethal, even allowing you to take on dogs bare-handed.
  • Gorn: So very much. Especially notable is the several different ways an enemy can get mutilated with your weapons depending on what you use and what angle you attack them at.
  • Gratuitous French: Wearing Phil (the fish mask) during a mission will play the dialogues in French.
  • Guide Dang It!: Getting Jones the alligator. That crowbar in the first room of Full House? You use it to open up the manhole outside of the building after finishing the level. There isn't any indication of this unless you pick up the crowbar and go back there to see the red arrow.
  • Guns Akimbo: The police chief dual-wields SMGs Gangsta Style. As does the final boss, the Mafiya kingpin.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The enemies primarily pick up on noise, scent, direct visual contact, etc. and will not care about mysteriously-opened doors, the sight of other dead mooks, or broken windows.
  • Heroic Mime: Jacket. The Biker can talk, though Jacket still remains silent.
  • Heroic Resolve: Right after he seems to be almost on the verge of death and wakes up in a hospital, delirious and tired, Jacket escapes from the hospital, dons his old jacket, and shoots out an entire police station and Mafia headquarters to massacre everyone he believes is responsible for the death of his female companion. Heroic Resolve indeed.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Jacket has a soft spot for a drug-addicted woman he rescues.
  • Hollywood Silencer: The silenced handgun, which is quieter than most melee attacks, at the cost of a fifty-fifty chance of only wounding the target. Using Peter the Unicorn makes all your weapons silent.
  • How We Got Here: "Does April the 3rd mean anything to you?" The story apparently begins in the eleventh chapter, after Jacket has been hospitalized with a gunshot wound to the head..
  • Human Sacrifice: One of these is being performed in the center of the first bonus mission.
  • Informed Ability: The Biker is apparently some sort of DJ or musician, or at least dabbles in music judging by the keytar and turntables in his apartment.
  • I See Dead People: Following the battle with the biker, Jacket's version of events becomes increasingly distorted, with zombies of the men he's killed beginning to show up around his home and in public.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Jacket's arsenal includes lead pipes, crowbars, glass bottles, beer cans, and pans of boiling hot water. The Don Juan mask allows you to kill enemies by slamming doors into them.
  • Interface Screw:
    • Nigel the Bat reverses the controls. Oscar the Mole turns the screen dark and red.
    • As Jacket gets closer to remembering his girlfriend's death, quick flashes of static start appearing. Then there's the hospital level.
    • The game also likes to do whatever it can to disorient you, from making the stage sway back and forth as you move to causing TV-style flickering on your monitor.
    • The hospital level throws in even more screen sway, static interference and occasionally has your character lock up and be unable to move for a few seconds while a shrill squeal blares over everything, simulating the effects of his head wound.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: SWAT officers appear unexpectedly at the end of one of the missions, and you have to escape from them. Thanks to their body armor they're immune to most attacks, and the few attacks that do work on them will only knock them down for a couple seconds.
  • It Never Gets Any Easier: In fact, Jacket starts to suffer mentally as a result of his work. His first mission results in him puking his guts out. Halfway through, he begins hallucinating his victims, mutilated corpses, and has no idea what reality is. Unless he's not hallucinating because of guilt, but rather because his dreamscape is starting to fall apart.
  • Jump Scare:
  • Just Following Orders: Jacket confronts Richter in a jail cell during Chapter 13, Assault. Richter reveals he himself does not understand the events at play, and is receiving the phone calls as well. The player can then either strangle him to death or spare him.
  • Just You and Me and My GUARDS!: Before you get to lay hands on the Russian mob boss, you'll have to contend with his pet panthers and female bodyguard.
  • Kaizo Trap:
    • The Chapter Clear banner is no promise of safety. SWAT shows up in one level, while a van tries to run you over and deploys a molotov-throwing boss and several goons.
    • The final boss shoots himself with a revolver, whose bullets pierce multiple targets. And you can't move while he does it. Position yourself carefully.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: The samurai sword, which has both reach and lethality.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The masked men and the janitors talk as much to the player character as to the player himself.
  • Knife Nut: Jacket can be this if you play with the Boring, but Practical knife. The biker can only use a meat cleaver and a trio of throwing knives. Dennis the Wolf lets you start each level already armed with a knife.
  • Leave No Survivors: Jacket must kill all enemies. He can never just go straight to his objective.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: The music that plays in the main menu, apartments, and after the "chapter complete" sign all last a very long time. Of note is the main menu theme, "Horse Steppin'" that lasts 10 whole minutes.
  • Losing Your Head:
    • The headless corpse of the Biker is still fully-conscious.. at least in Jacket's hallucinations.
    • Once Jacket glimpses himself lying in a hospital bed, he falls to his knees and pulls his own head off.
    • In the Biker's playthrough, during the fight at Phonehom he ensures Jacket is dead by stomping it into a red puddle.
    • A few of the executions result in Jacket decapitating or just obliterating the mobster's heads. You can also end up completely shooting off the head of an enemy with a lucky shotgun blast (which results in their still-living body slumping into the ground).
  • Luck-Based Mission: The weapons that spawn on a level are randomized, so if you rely on a single play-style, then the game will be very luck-based. Additionally, mooks occasionally deviate from their usual patrol routes, which can ruin a run if you're not very quick on your reactions.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The people you kill are torn apart with blades, blown to pieces with gunfire, or bashed into paste with blunt weapons.
    • The "Jones" Alligator mask intentionally makes this worse with enormous sprays of blood and entrails flying whenever guns or blades are used for the kill.

  • Machete Mayhem: On par with the katana!
  • Made of Iron: The bosses, who are able to take quite a bit of damage before Jacket can finish them off. Even the Flunky Boss, who surrenders without getting into a straight-up fight, takes a very long beating. Justified for the first boss, at least, as he's wearing a bulletproof vest.
  • Made of Plasticine: Just about everyone else in the game can be messily killed.
  • The Mafiya: The mooks you kill are all Russian, as confirmed by most of the NPC dialogue. Especially the Golden Ending
  • Malevolent Masked Men: There ARE many masked hitmen on the loose, as evidence by the masks you find in levels being next to dead bodies. Then you have Richter sent to kill Jacket via phone message. Both Biker and Jacket have newsletters for 50 Blessings, if the Golden Ending is canon then everyone who signed up for that newsletter agreed to "die for their country" and anyone who thought about about backing out were given—empty—threats. Even without the canon ending, the janitors still imply there being many more operatives that the handful we saw during the course of the game not to mention the box of masks in their sewer lair.
  • The Many Deaths of You: As well as the many possible deaths of the enemies.
  • Mask of Power: Jacket gets a variety of animal masks, each of which has a different ability. For example, Tony the Tiger increases his unarmed power, while Don Juan the Horse upgrades the door-slam takedown into a lethal move.
  • Mind Screw: Things get weird the farther you get in the game.
  • Mind Screwdriver: The Golden Ending brings the plot back down to reality.
  • Mix and Match: 80s-style Genre Throwback with frequent Genre Shift into Psychological Thriller territory and even some optional elements of a Puzzle Game.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • In the course of the game, we go from a slightly weird but twistedly fun scenario involving a nameless anti-hero who kills nameless mobsters, to said main character slowly going insane from a bizarre combination of Schizophrenia and PTSD and finding his female companion's dead body in his apartment. We then go to the main character determinedly hunting down his girlfriend's assassin by taking out an entire police station and destroying every last one of the mobsters. This is all followed by The Biker's psychotically upbeat and energetic attitude, followed in turn by his ultimate disappointment at finding out that the entire set up was a game created by janitors, who were basically trolling. So yeah… we go from exciting action to mind-bendy weirdness and back again.
    • Invoked at the end of every level, where the music abruptly stops after you've completed the objectives. On some levels, after this has happened, an additional objective can occur. Which result in another dose of Mood Whiplash as a new song starts playing as you're thrown into the mayhem again.
  • Mook Chivalry: Downplayed. Sure, the enemies all attack at once, but they all charge straight forward with absolutely no regard to self preservation.
  • Morality Pet: The hooker Jacket rescues and takes care of, with no apparent motivation other than pity. Watch the game from chapter to chapter and notice how Jacket's apartment gets steadily nicer and more comfortable, more like something a well-adjusted person would live in up until the point she gets Stuffed in the Fridge.
  • Multiple Endings: Determined by whether or not you investigate the Big Bad Duumvirate's computer before confronting them.
  • Musical Spoiler: In a very subtle example, the track 'Hydrogen' specifically plays on levels with a boss fight.
  • Mysterious Employer: Just who is leaving the messages on Jacket's machine? Turns out it's the janitors, who either hire or intimidate hitmen into killing targets.
  • Nameless Narrative: None of the characters are given official names.
  • Nintendo Hard: One knife stab, baseball bat to the face, bullet to anywhere, etc. will kill you instantly. And you frequently face multiple opponents at once, who have insane reaction times and swing/shoot faster than you can. Then you play as the biker, who only has three custom throwing knives, and faces more gunners than you have knives. In either case, you either have to play very carefully (which nets you less points, as the game encourages recklessness), or rush everyone and hope a shot just grazes you.
  • No Dead Body Poops: Averted. Some melee kills result in a beaten, bloody gangster with a urine stain in his pants.
  • No-Gear Level: The hospital. Making matters more difficult: The camera angles are loopier than usual, and the overlay is mimicking poor cable TV reception. This mirrors the pain and disorientation of Jacket, whose head is still swathed in bandages.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Woe betide whoever Jacket has to take down with his bare hands. Even worse for many of the bosses.
  • No-Sell:
    • An unintentional example. The silenced Uzi and pistol take two bullets to kill a normal guard. Due to that and silenced guns being silent, a guard shot in the back of the head with one bullet won't even flinch.
    • The Scary Black Man type of mook, who needs a shotgun blast or an entire magazine of assault rifle fire to kill him.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Getting caught in the hospital level results in mundane things like getting put in restraints, and being sent back to your room.
  • Noodle Incident: On one night, Beard mentions that there's a chill in the air, briefly alluding to some mysterious event that he never elaborates on.
    Beard: I haven't felt this way since San Francisco...
    • The significance of this line is revealed in the sequel. It turns out that in 1986, Beard died there.
  • Not So Different: The rat-masked killer sent to kill Jacket and his girlfriend says this to Jacket later on, when Jacket comes to seek revenge, though it's more of a confession than a taunt.
  • Notice This: Using Rasmus adds a twinkling effect to hidden items.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The janitors. When encountered for the first time, their initial dialogue comes up as a single ellipsis.
  • Nothing Personal: When Jacket confronts Richter in a jail cell, he reveals that he's just a pawn following orders just like Jacket.
  • Office Golf: The boss of the telephone company has a golf bag in his office. Jacket has to pick up a golf club to fight against the boss.
  • Once an Episode:
    • Every mission until waking up in the hospital begins with Jacket getting a message on his answering machine describing his next job, in coded language. He walks downstairs, gets in his car, and heads off.
    • After each mission, Jacket stops by one of the establishments run by Beard. Beard makes one-sided small talk with Jacket, then offers him something "on the house." Jacket silently takes it and leaves. Then he starts getting replaced.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Playing as the biker and killing Jacket can be viewed as this sort of scene.
  • One-Hit Point Wonder: Jacket and most mooks are effectively this whenever weapons are involved. There is a very small bit of leeway when it comes to ranged weapons, though - occasionally, bullets will only graze Jacket or any mooks, allowing them to continue as if nothing happened. Wearing the Rufus mask always lets Jacket survive one bullet, and the Earl mask lets him survive two. The Thug enemies and their police reskins, the Inspectors can survive numerous bullets before going down, averting this.
  • One-Man Army: Hoooooo boy... An Achievement requires you to kill 1,989 enemies, and even a conservative count that takes your many, many deaths into account still leaves you with a few hundred bodies. The fact that you're a One-Hit Point Wonder like every last mook only makes your ability to scythe through them by the dozen all the more impressive.
  • Only in Miami: Taken to an extreme! Protagonists and antagonists embody this, as does the sinister, neon-lit setting.
  • Only Six Faces: Let's just say that the similarities in character appearances have resulted in more than a fair share of Wild Mass Guessing amongst fans of the game.
  • The Owl-Knowing One: Sure enough, Rasmus the Owl is better at finding secrets.
  • Panthera Awesome: The mob boss certainly thinks so. He has a pair of black leopards guarding his penthouse office.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": "I was born in the USA"
  • The Patient Has Left the Building: In the level "Trauma", your character (who has just awoken from a coma) must sneak out of the hospital. It's the game's only Stealth-Based Mission, and your character will freeze up every so often as a wave of dizziness takes over him.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Jacket rescues an abused working girl, The Hooker, who he then shares his apartment with. It doesn't end well for her.
    • As the Biker, he spares his interrogation targets, and unlike the main game, it's possible to just ignore all the Phonehom workers instead of chopping them up.
  • Pixel Hunting: Each password piece appears as a small purple square which can be very hard to see unless one is specifically looking for them. The Rasmus mask will add a small glow around the pieces making them more noticable.
  • Psycho for Hire: Jacket's motivations are unknown, save for revenge in the ending, but the Biker is definitely this.
  • Psychotic Smirk: The two janitors never stop grinning when Biker confronts them. They do, however, stop smirking when Biker tells them he bypassed their computer.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: A few of the enemies in the game, such as the rat-masked man who shot Jacket and his girlfriend. He's apologetic, but knows as little about the men who ordered the hit as you do.
  • Purple Is the New Black: Panthers (as well as the panther mask, Brandon) are represented as purple in this game, though they are black in real life.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: From the different playthroughs. In "Neighbors", Jacket finds all the Phonehom employees dead, and has the boss immediately and violently fly at him, roaring his intent to tear him apart. In the Biker's perspective, killing them is optional, and the Biker warns Jacket twice to leave. Jacket, instead, charges him without a word. When Jacket dies, the Biker mutters that "[he] had [his] chance."
  • Real Men Wear Pink: The Biker definitely shows himself to be just as badass as Jacket.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Jacket is The Quiet One, who lives in a dingy, poorly kept apartment. Biker is a Blood Knight with a fiery attitude who is obsessed with bright neon colors.
  • Retraux: Pixel art and some 80s-inspired music. It's slightly more violent than actual games from that time period, though.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: They can pierce multiple enemies.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Completing this game a second time after finishing the sequel clears up a lot of details and makes several plot points a lot more apparent. One of the biggest is the knowledge that Jacket knows exactly who is calling him and for what purpose, and is doing it willingly instead of being coerced.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: The local head of The Mafiya has two purple panthers.
  • Right Hand vs. Left Hand: Jacket and the Biker are both pawns of the same mastermind. The latter is marked for death when he starts tracing the calls, and Jacket is summoned to stop him. Who survived the battle at Phonehom, however, is up to interpretation.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Jacket fights his way through an army of police in order to kill the imprisoned murderer of his girlfriend, then fights his way all the way to the local head honcho of The Mafiya.
  • Role-Reversal Boss: In the level "Neighbors", the player character (Jacket) fights and kills Biker, a cleaver-wielding Bullfight Boss. Near the end of the game this fight gets revisited, except now you are the Biker and have to kill Jacket. Ironically, the proper way to complete this fight is not to act like a Bullfight Boss, but simply run up to Jacket and kill him with one swipe.
  • Rule of Three: Rooster, Horse, and Owl, the three mysterious masked people who question Jacket's motives between chapters.

  • Sanity Slippage: The shop visits between missions eventually become disjointed and surreal, with corpses appearing everywhere, the Sensory Abuse of the mind-trippiness increasing, and the dialogue becoming increasingly Mind Screw-y. Yahtzee even wrote that he thought it was the best portrayal of what it would feel like to be insane he'd ever seen in video games.
  • Scary Black Man: The first boss. He returns as a mook that is only vulnerable to guns, and his corpse can block shots, leaving other ranged enemies shooting you in the face.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: A variation. Since Jacket and Biker meet and fight to the death at one point, only one of their plotlines can be canon. The sequel suggests that Jacket's ending is the canon one, but a bonus level reveals that Biker had survived this encounter, and Jacket only hallucinated his brutal beating.
  • Sensory Abuse: The bright colours, the flashing, the way the view sways as you move... yep, this disorienting combination of visual elements merges pretty well with the rest of this game's aesthetic.
    • One of the levels has a bomb-strapped hostage, who has to be shot to progress. The resulting explosion is ear-piercingly loud and incredibly disorienting to players not expecting it.
    • 3/4ths past the game, your screen will fill with static, and as you try to escape the hospital, your vision fills with blurry, white noise to indicate Jacket's about to double over in pain. It's a stealth mission, so you'll need to time your episodes right.
  • Sequential Boss: As opposed to the other bosses, which soak up a lot of hits, the final boss is three opponents strung together that go each down quickly. First two panthers who you face in melee, then a ninja who you throw your weapon at to take down, and finally the head of The Mafiya, who uses dual uzis.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Jacket's rampage against the Russian mob after he destroys the police station. In the non-linear Playable Epilogue, it is shown that the evidence folder turns out to be a Red Herring to draw suspicion away from the actual organization who organized the hits on him and his girlfriend. In the final dream sequence, the Rooster Mask straight up tells Jacket that nothing he does from that point on will make any real difference.
  • Shoot the Hostage: The objective of Mission 04: Tension, although it's more like blow up the hostage.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Attempting the final level without discovering the hidden password dumps you in the basement of a nondescript building, whereupon the Biker confronts the two janitors who were behind all the killings. They don't respond to interrogation and taunt you into killing them, leaving all the questions unanswered. It's lampshaded by the Chicken-mask-wearing man at the start: "You will never see the whole picture."
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: They can kill from a whole screen away, and are the only weapons that can kill the Scary Black Men in a single shot.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own subpage.
  • Smug Snake:
    • The rat-masked assassin who murders Jacket's girlfriend.
    • The Two Janitors only wear a smug, condescending smirk, happily taunting the player over their ignorance. Only in the Golden Ending do you get to wipe it off their ugly faces.
  • Sinister Surveillance: The creepy janitors who watch Jacket in his apartment and during his hit for one of the chapters. With good reason, as they're behind the underlying conspiracy.
  • Spanner in the Works: The Biker, who, bored of his job and fearing retaliation, goes after those behind the conspiracy.
  • Spiritual Successor: Hotline Miami has a Hitman-like premise for the fact that you have to restart a lot, learn the levels, learn enemy patterns and so on. If you enjoyed Hitman, you won't have any problems.
  • Split Personality: Jacket "visits" the room with the three masked personas at the start of each Act. "Richard" wears Jacket's Iconic Outfit, "Don Juan" wears the Hooker's clothes, and "Ramsus" is wearing a mobster suit.
  • Spy Speak: Lots of Type-2 speak when it comes to the orders sent to Jacket. More ambiguously, the bearded clerk who appears in different stores to give Jacket something for free just for showing up while making idle conversation. He might be slyly paying Jacket for jobs finished, but it's never made explicitly clear.
  • Stationary Boss: The mafia boss remains seated at his desk at all times.
  • Stealth-Based Game: Not strictly required, but practicing stealth is much more likely to lead to winning the game than just rushing in guns blazing.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: The only instance in the game where the player is forced to be stealthy is a sequence in which Jacket has to escape from a hospital. It's fair to say this was the least well-received part of the game.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The Rooster is named Richard. Or if you prefer... the "Cock" named "Dick".
    • The real bad guys are ultra-nationalists fighting against a Russo-American conspiracy to make "America strong" once more. Their name? 50 Blessings, as in fifty states of America.
  • Steel Ear Drums: Averted, being one room away when a massive bomb goes off leaves your character temporarily hearing nothing but the screech of tinnitus.
  • Stress Vomit: In the first mission, your character vomits next to the body of a man he just killed. (That is, assuming you didn't immediately rush to Jacket's car.)
  • Stuffed in the Fridge: Sure enough, Jacket's new girlfriend doesn't last long.
  • Sunshine Noir: The bright neon colors and upbeat music of the setting combined with the exploration of the game's criminal underworld qualify it as this. Especially in Biker's arc.
  • Super Reflexes: The second boss can dodge anything and will also instantly-kill Jacket at close range unless he is busy getting his cleaver unstuck from the wall.
  • Super Strength: Possessed by just about everyone in the game. For example, one of the bosses can punch Jacket's brains right out.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: All the violence eventually gives Jacket PTSD hallucinations.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: Played with. The Biker is a cleaver-wielding man who kills you instantly if you get close, but mostly keeps his distance. He occasionally lunges at you, which is easy to dodge, and eventually tosses his cleaver at you—it gets stuck in a wall, and he tries to pull it out while you're free to bash his skull open. But in the final chapter you get to relive the battle from the boss's perspective. When the protagonist comes in, you can kill him simply by walking up to him and ending his life with a single cleaver slash, as opposed to engaging in overtly complex and suicidal tactics.
  • Take That!: The only thing the fish mask, Phil, does is... translating the dialogues in French. A jab to Fez creator Phil Fish.
  • Terms of Endangerment: One particular phone call refers to your targets as "VIPs". During your second visit to Jacket's watering hole, the barkeep kicks you out after announcing tonight is "VIPs only," so naturally, the only guests are corpses.
  • This Is a Drill: Carl the Grasshopper gives you an electric drill as your starting weapon. Using it as a finisher on downed enemies gives you an large point bonus every time, but the longer-than-usual animation leaves you vulnerable.
  • Throw-Away Guns: Since you are incapable of reloading guns, it's bound to happen.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Throwing a bladed weapon normally has an equal chance of either landing handle first and stunning the enemy or landing blade first and killing them. The Jake the Snake mask combines this with Made of Plasticine by making it so any thrown bludgeon, blade, or gun will mow through multiple enemies like a hot blade through butter, even if it's lost some of it's momentum and can be perceived as sliding across the floor.
  • 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain: Even a headshot can't keep Jacket down. However, he is still woozy from surgery, and only escapes the hospital through sheer luck and pluck.
  • Title Drop: In the third chapter intro. The phone call is from the "dating service" Hotline Miami.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Much of the game is told in flashback. Jacket is actually lying comatose in the hospital, still alive but replaying his own bloodbaths over and over in his head. He might also be Dead All Along, having been killed by the Biker, though this is up to your interpretation.
  • Trouble Entendre: Unlike Jacket, who follows his assignments without question, the Biker's phone messages get increasingly agitated as he ignores them. The last call is from a "funeral home", announcing that his tombstone is engraved and ready to be delivered. "With a little luck you should be getting it before the weekend!"
  • Tuckerization: Several masks are named after real people, such as Dennis (co-creator Dennis Wedin), Rami (Rami Ismail, fellow Indie Game creator and friend of the devs) and Nigel (Nigel Lowrie, Devolver Digital employee).
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The hospital, oft-cited as That One Level due to its reliance on stealth.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Playing as the biker restricts you to using only a meat cleaver and 3 unique throwing knives.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: Higher scores earn the player new weapons and masks (which grant the player bonuses when worn). Better players will find the game substantially easier later on as a consequence.
  • Unwinnable by Mistake: The third boss's molotov cocktails don't stop burning after a while. If you're careless, you can end up trapping yourself with fire "puddles".
  • Unwitting Pawn:
    • Hell-bent on avenging the murder of his girlfriend, Jacket storms the police precinct looking for her killer. He then backtraces the calls to the Mafiya stronghold. What he doesn't realize is that his girlfriend's killer was not in the Russians' employ. Wiping out the mobsters only furthers the real antagonist's goals.
    • The Phonehom company, which places out the recorded messages for each Hitman. Apparently, their system is bugged, and they don't realize it's happening.
  • Villainous Fashion Sense: Biker in particular, although The Mafiya head's female bodyguard also qualifies - though both may be viewed as a Fashion-Victim Villain if you find their style too gaudy.
  • We Have Reserves: The janitors of 50 Blessings don't care that they'll be killed - there's many more like them. All they need are five more years.
  • We Sell Everything: The hippie dude with the square-rimmed glasses is always manning a store Jacket heads to. Be it a bar, pizza parlor, VCR store...
  • Western Terrorists: The organization of the animal-masked people, unknowingly under the employ of an ultra-nationalist organization breaking to disrupt US/Russian relations.
  • Wham Episode: The fifth act, titled "Answers." The game unexpectedly rewinds by a couple of months and has you play as the biker that Jacket killed at Phonehom.
  • You ALL Look Familiar: After each job, Jacket heads over to a bar, eatery, or video store to unwind. Beard is working the counter at each establishment (though thinly-disguised behind hats), and always offers his wares "on the house." After Jacket escapes from the police, he's found dead in every store he worked in, replaced by Richter, who gives you nothing and wants you to leave.
  • You Bastard!:
    • If you make heavy use of silenced weapons, sneak attacks, and hiding, your play style will be listed as "coward" for that level.
    • Subtly done with the gameplay and atmosphere themselves. The game plays deliberately like an adrenalin-fueled haze until you kill everyone - then, the music stops, leaving the player to ponder his carnage.
    • Outright thrown into the Biker's face at the end of his play through by the janitors, if you haven't found the puzzles. They mock his blind need for violent fun. Given that his primary reason for hunting down the conspirators was because he was bored and sick of his job...
    • They also insult Jacket's blind following of orders - there would be no real consequence if they refused, besides threats, and never once in Jacket's playthrough do you find out who you're killing or why - nor do you slow down to do so. The three animal-masked people that predate each chapter also question the violence that the protagonist partakes in, "Do you like hurting other people?"
    • The Biker rebels against the evil conspiracy - not because of any sense of morality, or guilt, but because he's bored, and wants to kill some more. Given that the last levels of the game will most likely become repetitive, due to the One-Hit Kill, Nintendo Hard nature of the game, this may be a potshot at gamers who are frustrated with the gameplay and care nothing for the virtual mayhem they cause - only that when it stops being fun, they want it to go away.
    • It's also been theorized that the secret ending is a mockery of gamers who want story to their gameplay, by suddenly tacking on an international conspiracy plot that's out-of-genre and doesn't really answer any more beyond that.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Jacket ends up blowing up another animal mask killer who was captured and interrogated by the Mob. Later in the game, the forces behind the animal mask killers send someone to Jacket's apartment to kill him and his girlfriend... not for anything that he did, but simply because they no longer need him. While it's not shown until later, it turns out you were sent to Phonehom to kill the Biker, who had decided to find out who was behind the conspiracy.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: At the end of several levels, both Jacket and Biker confront a character who could easily be a tough and intimidating final opponent, but dies after being shot or beaten in one or two hits, without fighting back. This pattern continues with several other characters' levels in Hotline Miami 2.


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