Few video game franchises invoke the kind of nostalgia Wolfenstein achieves. The video game series has taken many forms under many developers – each adding their own take on the classic tale. From sneaking adventures to outright gun blazers, there’s no shortage of options for long-time fans to dive into.
We figured we’d look at the series as a whole – taking in the games that made us smile and those that frustrate us. Which game did you play first in the series – where does it stack in the overall picture?
10. Beyond Castle Wolfenstein (1984) – Let’s be honest, you couldn’t put anything else this low down the list. The game is a more stealthy affair than anything else, requiring you to sneak around randomly generated rooms, avoid detection and plant a bomb. All good stuff, except the randomly generated nature of it all means you’ll be desperately backtracking to find where you’re meant to go. As you enter different areas you’ll need different passes – which can prove frustrating when you’re forced to show off your ID everytime you wander past an enemy. This, of course, accompanies by the nightmare-inducing screams of “HALT, PASS AND HEIL” with every single interaction. Certainly, there is a charm to the title and if you can stomach the rudimentary nature of the game, there’s potential here for a good half an hours fun. It’s different but doesn’t hold up in the slightest.
9. Castle Wolfenstein (1981) – There’s a lot more sense to the madness in the original Wolfenstein outing than its sequel. The gameplay is similar in many regards – wander around while completing your objectives. Given the age of the game, I was very impressed to see it using stealth mechanics like costume switching and sneaking. The game also flows slightly better than its sequel, which makes returning to play more palatable upon revisit. Granted the experience is still shockingly barebones – but it’s interesting to look back at just how sophisticated the ideas (and implementation of said ideas) were in a 1981 game.
8. Wolfenstein 3D (1992) – It can’t be understated just how important id Software’s 1992 Wolfenstein was to gaming as a whole. At a time when three dimensions was a pipe dream in the home console space – Wolf 3D kicks the door down and boldly reimagines what gamers could expect. Out went the sneaking mechanics and disguises, replaced by a first-person shooter that really knew what its audience wanted. That being said, returning to Wolfenstein 3D in the modern age is a bit of a thankless task. The limited range of weapons mixed with the almost-identical feeling levels makes the game something of a chore to slog through. Add in the fact that the level design is insanely cryptic, requiring huge segments of backtracking. Despite this, Wolf 3D is a monumental moment for gaming – but it hasn’t aged all that well.
7. Wolfenstein RPG (2008) – Taking the groundwork laid down by Doom RPG, Wolfenstein RPG brings a more dark humor to the series – and it’s all the better for it. The game revels in its ridiculous lore, offering up an incredibly wide selection of weapons and enemies for you to take down. The idea of a turn-based Wolf game might not appeal to many but the execution is so delightful that you’ll be sucked right in. Of course, it doesn’t look great (it was developed in a pre-iPhone world) and sadly won’t appeal to everyone. That being said, the RPG series of games is often overlooked but certainly well worth a look if you’re trying to get a full grasp on what makes Wolfenstein as a series tick.
6. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (2003) – It’s hard to argue with Spash Damage’s work here. Taking the hugely popular framework from RTCW, Enemy Territory is a free-to-play multiplayer spin-off that played exclusively to the multiplayer crowd. It saw a huge take up from the community, with thousands of maps made by eager fans. The game was so popular that you can still find servers online today for it in 2017 – not bad for a game that was mostly just a side project. If you’re here for the Wolf story though, there’s next to nothing here for you. One for the hardcore mostly, but a resoundly fun time for those of us who roamed its servers during its hayday.
5. Wolfenstein (2009) – Yeah so this was a really odd one. Made by the fine fellas over at Raven Software, Wolfenstein (2009) is a really different beast to everything that came before and after it. The game acts as a continuation of the earlier games, building upon the role of the Kreisau Circle resistance. Heck, the game even brought back Deathshead as the primary villain. Add in some open world segments, a sci-fi story involving parallel dimensions and a tongue in cheek approach to gameplay and you’ve got an interesting little outing. It sadly gets buried in the shadow of the two titans it arrived between, but there’s certainly nothing outright wrong with this somewhat bold re-imagining of the series.
4. The Old Blood (2015) – A standalone experience that recounted the multitude of story threads left over from countless reboots. The return to simpler times lends the game a unique sense of atmosphere to its bigger brother. The game plays just as well and thanks to the absurd nature of the setting, manages to be a right laugh in the process. The problem is that in the shadow of The New Order, The Old Blood feels like a rushed experience. The story lacks bite and while the levels are fun to play around in – there’s always this nagging sense that more could (and probably should) have been done with the game.
3. The New Colossus (2017) – Arguably the hardest to rank on this list. On the one hand, it manages to continue TNO’s story with hilarious pomp. Everything from the way characters are written to the way the story delivers is exciting and fun to experience. Yet, on the other hand, 2017’s game feels more like a tribute act to the game that came before it. The highs are never quite as exhilarating while the game’s writing never surpasses the twists and turns of the original. A lot of ideas get reheated in service of this sequel, which keeps things as safe as possible. The levels are great but not as interesting at The New Orders. The enemies aren’t too much to shout home about. If you loved The New Order, this is the game for you. If you were looking through this list and marveling at how much the series has taken risks over the years – TNC is sadly one of the safer bets on here.
2. Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001) – Nine years gamers had to wait for a proper next incarnation of the series – but what a game they were greeted with. RTCW takes inspiration from emerging shooters at the time, bringing the first fully 3D outing to the series. The single player is something of a reboot – kicking out the established story and focussing on action gameplay. It holds up as well as most shooters from this time – managingReally though, the game is remembered mostly for its absolute barnstorm of multiplayer mode. Easily one of the best multiplayer experiences this side of Halo, RTCW was so popular and so successful that Spash Damage would craft their own spin on the multiplayer experience. If you want to see early 2000 shooters at their best, this title is must-play.
1. The New Order (2014) – The New Order was such a bolt from the blue, catching many off guard with its gripping story, excellent level design and insane commitment to over the top nature. Make no mistake, the praise heaped on this game is well deserved, with a core game experience that both reminds you of how fun first-person shooters can be while going so outlandish that the game can’t take itself too seriously. It also features some of the best gunplay in modern shooters – harking back to more classic bullet sponge shooters than the likes of Call of Duty. The success of this game not only brought the franchise to modern gamers – it arguably showcased that Wolfenstein is the one dog that can’t be kept down.