The Pirate Hacks Of Africa: Our correspondent goes shopping for knockoff games in Nairobi.

Gameological contributor Joe Keiser is in the midst of a year-long stay in Nairobi. We asked him to check out the video game selection in his neighborhood. This is what he found.

In Nairobi, there is this shopping center called Diamond Plaza. It is the natural conclusion of a city that doesn’t enforce building codes. It is always under construction, has always been under construction according to the locals, and is a malignant tumor of a building. You can go the second floor, climb through a four-foot doorway into a straight, too-small hall, and end up somehow on the first floor. The stairwell constricts around you the further down you go. There are multiple doors on the highest levels that open into the alley dozens of feet below.

It is a beautiful, terrible place, perhaps my favorite in the city. And they sell games here, the sort of games you would expect in a place where only some of the rooms have a floor. Which is to say they are delirious hacks of old, pirated PlayStation 2 standards, from all over the world, with cover art that is uniformly amazing.

Grand Theft Auto: Saw

GTA: SawNotice the liberal use of rainbows on this cover, which accurately depicts the childlike whimsy of both Saw and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the game this hack is based on. San Andreas is about the deep entrenchment of American gang culture in the early ’90s, and Saw is about getting people to murder each other. So, rainbows.

GTA: Saw in-game screenshotThe game itself is a mutation of San Andreas where the load screens and main character have been replaced with the Jigsaw puppet from Saw. It’s the perfect game for the least discerning of Saw fans, which might be all of them.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Kirk Douglas

GTA: San Andreas: Kirk DouglasFull disclosure: this article exists so I can tell you all about Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Kirk Douglas. Just look at it! It’s exquisite. The game itself is as grand as the cover. It is San Andreas, with the load screens replaced by EXTREME closeups of Kirk Douglas—and occasionally his son Michael Douglas, because hey, close enough, right? In the game, the main character appears to be a rough approximation of Kirk Douglas. Oh, and all the missions have been removed, so there’s nothing to do.

Why would someone make this? Is there some shadow demographic of Grand Theft Auto/Kirk Douglas fans that is going completely unserved? No? Then let us create one, you and I, and give this labor of love the respect it deserves.

Battlefield 2: Special Forces

Pirate Hack Battlefield 2: Special ForcesNow, there is a real video game called Battlefield 2: Special Forces, but it never came out for the PlayStation 2, and it certainly never starred deceased pro wrestler Eddie Guerrero, even though he was amazing and should be in everything VIVA LA RAZA! Hey, the guy who made this cover knows what I’m talking about.

Anyway, you might think the game inside this case is simply a pirated copy of the Battlefield 2 game that did come for the PS2, because that would be a sensible thing to steal. Yet that would make too much sense. This is actually a Japanese game, Simple 2000 Series Vol. 108: The Nihon Tokushubutai, which is translated as “The Special Forces.” It’s not really clear how you could start out intending to pirate one game and end up pirating an obscure, Japan-only budget title instead, but at this point, we should really be willing to accept anything.

Guitar Hero: Satellite 2009

Guiter Hero: Satellite 2009This is a hack of the classic plastic guitar phenomenon Guitar Hero 2, but all of the songs have been replaced with Bahasa rock and rap, which are actual things that exist. This is actually a cool idea for a pirate hack, since it gives the local community a version of the game the original developers never would have made. But for this specific game, that local community is in Jakarta, thousands of miles away. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it, so go ahead and listen to “Maaf Dari Surga” while you play air guitar.

Guitar Hero: Unleashed and X’mas Songs

Guitar Hero: Unleashed & X'mas SongsI know what you’re thinking: “Bahasa versions of Guitar Hero are all well and good, but where is the compilation of Christmas songs and Nu metal?” Don’t worry, here’s Guitar Hero: Unleashed and X’mas Songs. Do you like “White Christmas”? Do you also like Korn? No? Well, that’s okay, because all of the bonus tracks are Bahasa rock and rap. Something for everyone!

Guitar Hero: The Legend: Beatles and Friends

Guiter Hero: The Legend: Beatles & FriendsYou’ll come for the Beatles, but you’ll stay for the anime girl that who maybe is supposed to be Yoko Ono. Okay, the Beatles have other friends, too, but they are mostly Bahasa rock and rap stars.


Pirate version of RoboCopThis is just an old, awful RoboCop game that nobody should ever play. Look at that cover, though! It will brighten your life in countless ways.

Grand Theft Auto hacks that are all the same

Grand Theft Auto hack assortmentGrand Theft Auto: Supernatural, The Legend, Infinite World, and 2012: End of the World all seem like they would be different games, right? They took the hero of Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost And Damned , Johnny Klebitz, and Photoshopped his head into so many different other games! Unfortunately, all of the games are San Andreas—more specifically, a San Andreas hack of possibly Brazilian origin that removes the story missions and adds explosive superpowers (and Linkin Park to the radio). 2012: End of the World gets bonus points for replacing the game’s opening video with a trailer for the movie 2012. Very classy.

Grand Theft Auto: Dubai City

GTA: Dubai CityThis one was a real surprise. Oh, it’s still San Andreas. But it was edited and “improved” as much as possible. The opening video is a tourism promotional video for Dubai.

GTA: Dubai City loading screenThe loading screens are all advertisements for Syrian Games, which may be an outfit of pirates and thieves but also employs video game cover artists of great vision and poise.

GTA: Dubai City—horror jaw GTA: Dubai City—horror jawThe face of Dubai City’s new main character will periodically glitch, becoming a horrible nightmare with stretched skin and an impossibly distended jaw.

GTA: Dubai City in-game screenshotMany of the signs and billboards in the game have been replaced with Arabic text, and the radio stations play only Arabic music. It’s quite a comprehensive hack, and the best part is that buying it in Kenya almost certainly doesn’t violate American sanctions against Syria. So any American customs agents reading this article shouldn’t even worry about sending me to federal prison. Please?

Words by Joe Keiser. Title illustration by Keith Vincent.

Looking to extend your descent into pirate-game madness? Check out our treasury of the Syrian Games cover artist’s finest work.

Write a scintillating comment  (Say Something because you just can’t stop typing)

  • George_Liquor

    Damn fine job, Kenya! Eat your heart out,

  • Needs more Bahasa rock and rap.

  • Fluka

    Ooo, there’s a colored background, so you know it’s gonna be good!

    Each and every one of these is an internet meme waiting to happen.  In addition to the Kirk Douglassiness, these covers also introduce some sorely needed color and rainbows and Bahasa into today’s brown modern shooter!

    However, that Dubai City shot looks like it could be a sequel to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, *shudder.*

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    Let’s see if Operation: Spartfall can garner enough signatures to convince Syrian Games of Kenya (SGOK) to finally localize Grand Theft Auto San Andreas Kirk Douglas for the American market.
    Playable on a… Nantando Funbox… I assume?

  • Colonel

    I’m putting my sarcastic-cred out there but…are these real?  These can’t possibly be real.  My mind needs these to not be real in order to not devour itself. I mean what the fuck GTA:SA:KD??? The fuck!?

    • I don’t blame you at all for thinking this is a big joke, but these are all 100-percent real.

      • Colonel

        Then the Marble Madness Prophecy has come true:  ”Everything you know is wrong.”

        • Black is white, up is down, and short is long.

        • TaumpyTearrs

          Just forget the words and sing along!

      • Craggy Knob

        It’s hard to believe that GTA:SA:KD would exist. Why would it exist? Is Kirk Douglas enduringly popular in Nairobi? Why? WHY? I have to know! ( I dont even know who kirk-yule-wa-glass is )

    • They are real, but you can imagine that I wrote and Photoshopped this whole thing from the local head trauma ward if that helps you cope.

      • DrunkPhilatelist

        not that it’s any of my wax bees, but why the year long stay in Nairobi?

        johnny boy

        • HobbesMkii

          Whoa there, Hitler. If you want an answer, you shouldn’t get combative by deploying the johnny boy.

        • My wife was offered a temporary work appointment and we were both feeling some wanderlust. Nothing dramatic.

    • Bad Horse

      Man, have you ever been to a Chinese import DVD shop? That shit is bananas. I knew a guy once who bought all 20 (at the time) Bond movies for $30, with wildly varying aspect ratios, resolutions, and with large portions of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service being in French. I guess Western languages all sound alike. Also, the cover had a horrific gestalt entity of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Pierce Brosnan standing in for Bond.

  • I laughed enough that my jaw kind of did that thing that the Dubai City protagonist’s did.  I’ll finish looking at the rest of these from the hospital, but I did forward this link on to a friend whose birthday is today.  I think I know what someone will be wishing for as they blow out their candles!  If not, I can see that lone tear cascading down Kirk Douglas’s cheek in Spartacus right now.

    Also, this is my hundredth comment on Gameological, so it’s a bit of an anniversary for me too.  A whale of a tale, I tell ya.

  • Enkidum

    Holy shit my brain cannot process the awesome. I was thinking of working tonight but I think I’m going to need a few hours to recover from reading this.

  • ILDC

    Is that the Nostalgia Critic?

  • Emperor_Jim

    I’ve been to Dubai three times, and the bootleg / hacked video game selection was hilarious. There was one called Battlefield: Medal of Justice featuring box art from Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. However, the game description on the back was clearly lifted from one of the Need for Speed games – unless they really did have over 50 of today’s finest supercars at the Normandy landings.

    Also popular were Game Boy Advance games featuring 100 games in one. I actually bought one of those. Most of the “games” were horribly glitchy or outright incomplete, but it did have some Mario Advance titles that worked. Fun times.

  • Captain Internet

    Is it racist to simply document things that are happening in Africa?

    • Kyle O’Reilly

      Weirdly enough, I think this article humanizes the people of Nairobi more than most articles about the region.  Video games are usually thought of as a 1st world pursuit, and so we think of Japanese games, American games, and European games.  No African games, that’s for sure, right guys?  Most gamers never stop to think if the fictional Africans they’re blowing away in Call of Duty have real world counterparts, who don’t chase american Black Ops agents across the desert, but sit on their couches playing video games just like CoD to diddle away the hours.

      So many people have such backwards thoughts about Africa, that they just assume every African is a) running around with an AK-47 all day b) living in the Serengeti chasing water buffalo or c) praying to the Qu’ran all day.  They never even think that Africans use smart phones, check Facebook and play video games all day.

      Something about the idea of a 24 year old dude, chilling out in Nairobi playing Grand Theft Auto: Kirk Douglas, while I’m in America playing Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, makes me realize how similar we really are at our base level.

      Despite the huge differences in our upbringings, culture and environment, we both just want to unwind playing a game where we can smash cars into light poles and run away from the police.

      • HobbesMkii

        Except the guy in Nairobi gets to do it while playing as Spartacus.

        • WaxTom

           Point: Africa

        • HobbesMkii

          @WaxTom:disqus By my reckoning, that puts the score at Africa: 1, Developed World: 1,000,000,000.

          This is turning into a close one.

        • drdarke

           Which only makes it more awesome, @HobbesMkii:disqus !

      • drdarke

         ::Sniff:: It’s happened – The New World Order is Complete!

        ::hugs @twitter-88752419:disqus ::
        ::gets shot on the mean streets of Dubai, run over by Salman Khan on his way to a bakery::

      • Spot on Kyle. I was born, raised and still live in Nairobi and have been playing games for as long as I can remember. It is games like these that introduced some of us to the world of video games, and has kept us in it till now (i’m 24 years old xD).

        I must say however that there are quite a few finds in there that are quite amazing finds even for me. GTA (along with FIFA and the Need for Speed series) is immensely popular so knock offs i’ve come to expect. Battlefield, and to some extent guitar hero, is a bit of surprise.

        I do like your sentiments however on how similar people can be. I actually found this article via a friend of mine and we had a few laughs on just how far we’ve come since the days of getting ripped off buying these games. That was before we discovered warez and moved to PC, of course. 🙂

  • I love this stuff. There was a similar all-piracy-all-the-time market in Moscos called Gorbushka, but it wasn’t as egregious as this (it mostly just sold pirated rips of DVDs games/programs, and ‘anthology’ CDs full of pirated MP3s – it was kind of like that Chappelle’s show sketch about how if the Internet was a store).

    Folks interested in further adventures in African outsider-art takes on Western pop culture would do well to check out Ghanian hand-painted cinema posters. Which are pretty amazing.

    • Penis Van Lesbian

      Those are great. I particularly like grand guiginol Planet Terror poster coming from the “Peace Video Club”

    • OldeFortran77

      I enjoyed Face Off, the movie where a guy switched faces … with his identical twin.

  • duwease

    You made the right choice in basing an entire article around GTA: Kirk Douglas.

  • Kyle O’Reilly

    Now every time I pick up a game, there will always be a little voice in the back of my head that says…

    “Wouldn’t this be better with Eddie Guerrero?”

    *Pours 40 oz of Horchata to the curb.*

  • ComradePig

    I have very little to add besides that you’ve done fine work today Keiser, fine work indeed. My sides just about entered orbit when I saw GTA Kirk Douglas.

  • Halloween_Jack

    I’m guessing that quality-wise they’re mostly on the order of those pirated movies that are actually filmed in the movie theater by someone who can’t hold a camera still and sits next to someone who has a 5-minute phone conversation every 10 minutes. Also, I’m guessing that in many cases the person who originally produced the mod isn’t making any money, and that it could be downloaded by anyone with a half-decent connection.

  • Almost as bad as those 9999-Games-In-One things that lazy kiosk employees try to foist on you.

  • This sounds much better than the hacks I saw as a kid where Mario was in street fighter 2 for NES and NES Street Fighter 2.

    • ItsTheShadsy

      Someone should really do a retrospective about those awful NES hacks. I can vividly remember things like “Super Rabies Bros.”

  • This is the most amazing thing. I’d read articles of nothing but bootleg video games, they’re just ridiculous.

  • One of my major forays in to modern PC gaming happened because my friend went to Vietnam, and I gave him a list of all the bootleg games I wanted. And he got them all. And only 1/3rd of them worked. But it was still pretty awesome.

    After that, my only real experience with bootlegs was unintentional. I bought a copy of Hitman: Blood Money off of Ebay. There was no real reason to be suspicious of it. When I got it in the mail, it was a Russian bootleg. It still mostly worked ok. Normally, I wouldn’t care, but this was sold to me advertised as new and official. So I got pretty angry and reported the guy to both Ebay and Eidos/IO Interactive.

  • I’m sorry but I am in desperate need of GTA:Supernatural. I need it because of reasons.

  • Steve Reeves

    Some gameplay video or at the very least, more screenshots would have been great! Nonetheless, excellent article.

  • vachzar

    I’m from Indonesia. I have no idea how the heck they sell Guitar Indonesian hacked version there. makes me lol to death xD

  • ChristopherMoltesanti

    This is fucking stupid

  • Sheila Martinez


  • Paul Rodriguez

    I want those games

  • Grew up in Nairobi playing these sort of hacked games and listening to hacked pop music as a teen. End result. An adult who lives in London is comfortable with European  Arabic  Indian  Japanese  Chinese and any kind of entertainment out there.

    This article just explained why.

  • cheli_merida_12

    XD like si vienes por angel

  • I like the guitar hero with Xmas songs, I didn’t know that Sousuke Sagara from Naruto played electric Guitar! Rock on Sousuke…rock on….:P

  • Alex Cruz


  • Alex Cruz

    duxa te amo

  • carlos garcia

    duxativa? jojojo   ejercito de duxa!!!

  • Alex Cruz


  • javirebeld

    Ejercito pajero de duxa y señor gato reportandose!!

  • Ejercito pajero de Duxa y Sr Gato,la puta que los pario

  • ejercito pajero de duxaaa


  • ejercito de duxa


  • Ejercito pajero de DUXA PRESENTE!!!

  • jose

     Duxa army present here.

  • ejercito pajero de duxa presente XD

  • Marineqlpoderoso

    pero que chucha wn D:

  • Dariusz G. Jagielski

    I thought unlicensed hacks ended with NES, maybe SNES…


    syria is not in africa it’s in asia *___*
    we hack games here
    we used to buy the gta vice city for a half dollar :p
    and we got our own games here
    not hacked but professional

  • vinnybushes

    In a weird way wouldn’t a Malcolm McDowell GTA make more sense? However, I am glad to see Kirk getting his due.

  • Bad Horse

    Paths of Glory = most depressing CoD clone ever.

  • ToddG


  • SonjaMinotaur

    I would totally play GTA: The Bad and The Beautiful. Stealing cars, producing movies, alienating friends to further your career…

  • fieldafar

    Pfft, ”Le اللحوم المكدس.” You don’t know what you’re gettin’.

  • Halloween_Jack

    You mean that, if you’d worked in a store that sold pirated video games, you’d actually buy them? Hmmm. We need to work on your employee benefits package a bit.

  • HobbesMkii

    Press X to not get executed for cowardice as a scapegoat for institutional shortcomings.

  • belgand

    Every time I play a new game and I get shot almost immediately I pretend that I’m actually just playing a game based on Gallipoli.

  • OldeFortran77

    I see that as more of a Quick Time Event.



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