Throughout the month of June, Blastr will be celebrating our favorite digital diversions with Video Game Month: A look at some best, worst and wackiest from the world of shooters, space sims, strategy games, and more.
Like 90% of History Channel specials, video games love to work Nazis into places they don't belong. And why not? They're pretty much the go-to villain when you want to give your hero's journey that extra bit of motivation to make it to the final boss. Still, it works better in some cases than it does in others. I dissected the inclusion of anachronistic Nazis in seven different titles.
The 1980s were a pioneering time for video games. Game designers had a wide open field, lacking the constraints of "established" parameters. The possibilities were seemingly endless, and, with a little brainstorming, could form a nexus of boundless creativity. Instead, game designers said, "what if we just took the Bionic Man and smashed it together with the plot of Commando," then took a long lunch.
In Japan, where they are a little more creative, they said, "hey let's make zombie Hitler."
Thus was born Bionic Commando. According to the instruction manual, the 1987 game is set in the year 198X:
Which means it's set in the near future, as long as X equals 8 or 9.
You would think this premise would be enough for an entertaining game. This was, after all, 1987...the best-selling toy was a baby crossed with a vegetable that gives you severe gas. But no, the killing of man was apparently no longer a thrill to hip 1980s kids, and so they had to make everything Nazis.
At least, that's how it was in the Japanese version. Meanwhile, Nintendo of America was establishing its reputation of being totally against everything National Socialist, as long as it didn't mean spending any more money. So, a series of lazy changes were made: Hitler was changed to "Master-D," and the Nazis were changed to "Nazz," as seen in the above instruction manual. Still, the art assets remained pretty much the same, so you still beat the game by making Hitler's head explode.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin
Persona 2 involves a group of high school students fighting an entitiy called the Joker, whose superpower is apparently spreading nasty rumors. Characters fight with personified aspects of their, erm, personalities. There's even an appearance by Nyarlathotep, the Lovecraftian god who represents the maliciousness of the collective human unconsciousness. It's all explained in this rap video:
Just as, every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings, every time a rumor is spread, a Nazi gets resurrected, apparently. Then, all the good guys have to fight Hitler. Because this isn't silly enough, aliens then attack. At that point, the game content kind of shifts away from the scope of this article, but we do want to mention that this 2001 game also has crystal skulls as a main plot point, years before Indiana Jones did the whole aliens-fascists-crystal skulls crazy conspiracist trifecta.
In a plot twist no one could've seen coming (unless they had exactly the right number of monkeys with the right number of typewriters), Hitler is Nyarlathotep. We've been using the whole "creates Nazis" myth to scare our children into not gossiping. It's worked so far, so we've also started telling them that, if they don't eat all their vegetables, Satan will rise up and engulf planet Earth in hellfire.
Sniper Elite: Zombie Nazi Army
Games about sniping slow moving zombies have always been popular among people who own computers with low frame rates. Eventually, the makers of the WWII series Sniper Elite just said "eff it" and made a game in which the zombies were Nazis. Now, this has its limitations. For instance, the zombies can't goose step with any passion lest their legs fly off in a comical fashion. And this would ruin the tense drama evoked by the term "zombie Nazis."
Not to mention all of the philosophical conundrums that arise when one combines the two evil classes. For instance, what brains do Nazi Zombies eat? Do they eat all brains indiscriminately, or do they try to kill non-white people first, thus mirroring the plot of every horror movie ever? Common sense would dictate that Zombie Nazis would avoid races of "impure blood" altogether, and just feast on Aryan brains. Sadly, Sniper Elite: Zombie Nazi Army does not touch upon these brain-benders, and neither does its two sequels.
Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light
The Metro series takes place two decades after Russia is annihilated by nucear weapons. While this attack was sufficient to make everything mutate and glow like a rave at a freak show, it was not enough to cleanse Russia of Nazis.
As such, supporters of "the Fourth Reich" are a major enemy force in both Metro 2033 and its sequel, Last Light. Their goal seems to be to purge the earth of corrupted genes caused by radiation. Frankly, we thought the world was being purged of radiation effects through, you know, cancer. But that's what makes those meddling Nazis so fun to hate!
Problem is, it feels like the Fourth Reich is running out of things to weed out. First it was major deformities, then anyone with extra fingers or toes was at risk. Now, they seem to be eliminating people who aren't a sufficient height (we're serious). We'd think that, again, this would be a problem that would contain its own final solution: Just wait until the Nazi party whittles itself down to one really, really, condescending guy.
Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode
Released in 1988, Golgo 13 follows an assassin as he travels the world trying to solve a mystery with global ramifications. Unique at the time for its involved storytelling, Golgo 13 combined first-person shooters, side scrollers, and airplane battlers.
It didn't combine them well, but hey.
This video game series was based on a manga of the same name. In Golgo 13's initial foray into gaming, the anti-hero tracks down a mysterious plan to bring back the Nazi regime. This emphasizes how much Nazis have been shoehorned in, as the original manga never touches on the issue of resurrecting Hitler in robot form.
In the American port, the swiss cheese logic of Nintendo of America's censorship is on full display. The Nazi regime was changed to the "DREK" empire, and robot Hitler was replaced with a boss named "Smirk." Yet Smirk looks exactly like Hitler, there is still a Swastika on an in-game document, and enemies bleed out from the head upon being shot by a cigarette smoking protagonist. That last part really has nothing to do with Nazis; it's just a weird thing to leave in.
City of Heroes
This superhero MMORPG had players design their own caped crusaders and complete missions in fictional Paragon City. There weren't any licensed characters in the game from the DC or Marvel comic book universes. Instead, a comic book series was created to introduce the characters of the CoH universe. That's not to say the whole thing was good: Marvel even sued the game's makers, claiming City of Heroes ripped off Captain America with their poorly-named lead character, "The Statesman."
However, there was one group of well-known comic-book enemies that City of Heroes could crib without fear of violating IP law. That was, of course, the Nazis. They made their presence in the form of a bad guy organization titled The Fifth Column, a nod to real Nazi organizations such as the Fourth Reich, the International Third Position, and the Seventh Inning Stretch. The game's designers decided to eschew historical accuracy in lieu of getting super, super weird with Nazis:
For years, the average City of Heroes game experience involved hearing Nazis giving recruitment speeches and attacking the player in droves. There was even an overarching mythos involving a leader predicted to eventually rise up and lead the Fifth Column's revolution. That plot never came to pass, however: The Fifth Column was retconned out of the game in a move that coincided with expansion into the European market. Because German censorship is the second most detrimental thing for Hitler's influence (next to, of course, a land war in Russia).
Danan the Jungle Fighter
Danan the Jungle Fighter is a 1990 platformer for the Sega Master System. Released in Japan and, interestingly, Brazil, Danan follows the eponymous main character as he slashes his way through jungles in an unknown location (which we assume is totally Brazil). Danan can summon three animal friends to help him along his way: A mighty gorilla, a majestic eagle, and a we-have-no-idea-why-this-is-even-in-here armadillo. Nothing screams "Nazis" less than armadillo-enabled jungle combat in the middle of nowhere.
Yet, for some reason, Nazis exist for the player to beat. Halfway through the game, it is revealed that the nearby group trying to resurrect a god is not an indigenous tribe, but a group of Nazis who need the god to win the war. We're not sure how they expect to win an entire war with the aid of this dinky god.
Seriously, its guts are just hanging out for you to stab repeatedly. Still, more original than yet another resurrected Hitler.