She’s snuck around the world from Kiev to Carolina; she’s a sticky-fingered filcher from Berlin down to Belize. She’s Carmen Sandiego – and she’s on her way back, thanks to Netflix. The entertaining thief made her first appearance in Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? in 1985 by Broderbund Software and quickly became one of the biggest names in computer gaming.
That first game set the standard for several games in the series that followed in terms of both story and gameplay. The goal for players is to track Carmen’s henchmen around the world, arrest them, and ultimately find and arrest Carmen herself. The player, working for the ACME Detective Agency, starts at the scene of the crime and follows clues (usually left in the form of a play on words) to find the next location. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? was praised at the time for its attention to detail in regards to the various locations as well as for being an education-focused game that was actually fun to play.
The franchise quickly took off, spawning a number of sequels in quick succession (including Where in Europe is Carmen Sandiego?, Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?, and Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego?). The series was popular for its sense of humor and quickly turned into a major media franchise that included books, comics, tabletop games, a cartoon series, and a game show.
The original game show, also called Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, ran from 1991 to 1995 and featured Lynne Thigpen as “The Chief.” This was followed by a second game show, Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?, which lasted from 1996 to 1997. Both series were nominated for and won several different Daytime Emmys during their runs. A cartoon series, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?, also aired in the ‘90s.
Most recently, Carmen has returned in, appropriately, Carmen Sandiego Returns, which debuted earlier in 2015. If the last 30-plus years are any indication, whether she’s sneaking around the world or through the timeline itself, the red-clad thief is unlikely to stay caught for long.