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Video Game Historical Revisionism

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"Genji 2 is an action game which is based on Japanese history. Being based on history, the stages of the game will also be based on famous battles which actually took place in ancient Japan. So, here's this Giant Enemy Crab..."
Bill Ritch pitching the "historical realism" of Genji: Days of the Blade

The practice of misrepresenting facts in a historical setting, even when it would make no change to gameplay to be true to history. Games set during World War II are especially prone to this. Sometimes this is due to mere ignorance on part of the developers, other times it is deliberate distortion to express a political agenda or appeal to a certain market, in certain cases it could be just for simplicity or for artistic purposes, and in yet other cases it is a consequence of censorship laws prohibiting displaying certain emblems or referencing certain facts. Occasionally it is a result of seeking better game balance, such as nerfing a faction that historically would have been absurdly more powerful than its ingame "rivals".

No Swastikas is a specific example of this.

See also Historical Villain Upgrade, Politically Correct History, Artistic License – History, Selective Historical Armoury and Stupid Jetpack Hitler.


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    Action Games 
  • The original Hidden & Dangerous had missions set in Italy, Hungary and Romania where any and all enemies wore German uniforms and carried German weapons, thus creating the impression that these countries were occupied rather than (as is historical) allies of the National Socialists. Said game also featured a U-Boat base in occupied Norway located by itself out in some desolate area by something referred to as a "loch" (should have been a "fjord").
    • Historically, German U-Boat bases in occupied Norway and elsewhere were located in the harbors of certain cities and towns. The game also features sabotage of a heavy water production plant, which is Very Loosely Based on a True Story, namely the thoroughly unsuccessful Operation Freshman... Except the heavy water production plant is hidden in a disused(?) brewery. Historically, heavy water production had taken place openly since 1934 in a purpose-built factory and was thus not hidden at all. Said brewery is also located by itself on a desolate road, instead of being in the middle of an actual town.
    • Another mission involves recovering an Enigma cypher machine from the German cruiser Lützow, which was abandoned by her crew after taking heavy damage but failed to sink as expected. This is presumably intentional Alternate History, as the real Lützow never entered Kriegsmarine service and was sold unfinished to the Soviet Union in 1940. In real life, the Germans lost the Blucher (a heavy cruiser) in the Battle of Drøbak Sound, where the German cruiser was roundly slapped around by batteries of old shore guns and ultimately sunk by a pair of 40-year old torpedoes from a shore launcher.
    • In Hidden & Dangerous 2, one mission involves sabotage of a German aviation research facility. This has for some strange reason been located in the Lofoten islands in Northern Norway. In other missions, you face Italians in North Africa and Japanese in Burma. In the former case, the game makers modeled their uniforms and one aircraft type correctly, but they use German small arms and the pilots seen wear Luftwaffe uniforms. In the latter case historically correct small arms were modeled. In the expansion pack Sabre Squadron, Italian troops defending Sicily were accompanied by a Tiger tank.
  • Spartan: Total Warrior, an action-oriented Spin-Off from the Total War series has the Roman Empire as the main antagonists, despite the fact that Rome didn't come to power until after the fall of Sparta. Admittedly, it is somewhat bizarre that this is often cited as a major historical inaccuracy in a game which features Physical Gods, demons and Functional Magic at regular intervals.
    • Sparta did fight wars with Rome, both in times of classical resurgence (but after the original fall). The fact that the Sparta in the game has huge city walls, something traditional Sparta never had, is a bit more out of place with how much it plays on the macho Spartan traditions.
  • Fallout 3 changes several historical details to subtly establish that it takes place in an alternate universe. The most notable examples is in the museum of technology, where the Apollo 13 rocket and the moon lander are renamed "Delta" and "Virgo" respectively, and the American flag has a different star motif.
    • The states were consolidated back down to thirteen after the annexation of Canada (thus the different star motif) so you can see why people give it slack about not really having anything to do with the real world.
    • Word of God says that the Fallout verse diverges from ours sometime after World War 2, though there are examples going even further back (such as a voice recording of Abraham Lincoln, who died 12 years before the invention of the phonograph.)
      • That one in particular was based on a persistent legend that his voice was recorded on a prototype machine built by a French inventor earlier than the phonograph. Even that is excusable if you consider it to be simply a fake.
  • Dynasty Warriors features this to varying degrees throughout the series. Most visibly through the weapons and armour of the playable characters, in which several of them were not only not native to China but actually weren't even invented until several centuries later (since the setting takes place during the second and third centuries). It's almost certain none of the female characters ever fought, and very few personalities in the game are on spec with what is generally known or thought of among historians. One female figure in particular (Diaochan), despite being based on a minor historical personage, is mostly fictional to the point that she largely never seem to have existed in historical accounts.
    • Characters often live past their historical deaths either so you can keep playing as them or because they don't have enough generals to flesh out the later stages of the game. Early games would often have Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Jian living through the entire Three Kingdoms Era, as well as completely ignoring anything that happened after the Battle of Wu Zhang Plains.
    • Many battles resemble their fictional counterparts from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms more, as is only fitting as the series is a loose adaptation of the novel. Many character personalities & standout moments are also based on the Romance rather than historical record.
    • Everything that's true about Dynasty Warriors also applies to Samurai Warriors, though the latter takes place in the Sengoku era and while there's indeed a myriad of materiel and characters present, most, but not all, of them subvert this somewhat by being a little more appropriate of the era that the games depict.

    Fighting Games 
  • Samurai Shodown is set in 1788-1811. Texas and San Francisco are part of the United States, Yagyu Jubei (1607-1650) and Hattori Hanzō (1542-1596) are both alive, Prussia is a feudal kingdom with castles, armored knights, and an Arthurian king, the White House has its modern appearance, and there are robots. Amakusa Shiro (c. 1621-1638), at least, has an in-game explanation, that he made a deal with Ambrosia to return from the dead.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • In the Pacific Theatre of World War II, the Japanese mostly carried Arisaka bolt-action rifles; the Type 100, their only SMG, was rather rare, and production only amounted to a little over 10,000. Not so in Call of Duty: World at War, in which seemingly every other Japanese soldier packs a Type 100. The amount of man-portable automatic weaponry in the game is overdone in general.
    • Part of the British campaign in Call of Duty 2 takes place during the Second Battle of El Alamein, but does not feature any Italian forces, who were predominant in the area, replacing them all with Germans, even in the Italian-defended "Devil's Garden" minefields.
    • Notably averted in the Gaiden Game Big Red One, which takes the unusual step of bothering to portray the Vichy French as antagonists in the first mission, complete with more or less historically accurate weapons.
    • In a similar vein, in the Call of Duty expansion pack United Offensive, one mission revolves around sabotaging coastal defense guns in Sicily in preparation for the Allied invasion. Inexplicably, they are crewed and guarded by German soldiers. While there were in fact German soldiers participating in the defence of Sicily, it seems rather unlikely that they would man fixed coastal fortifications (and that's ignoring that the mission is preparing for an operation that, according to the date given, had already started several days prior).
  • Medal of Honor
    • Medal of Honor: Allied Assault used the maple leaf flag adopted in 1965 to represent the Canadian sector during the Normandy invasion. For accuracy's sake, it should have been the historical red ensign; however, that flag is obscure enough that even some Canadians have never heard of it. This is not a frequent issue in WWII and WWI games, due to Canadians appearing very rarely.
    • Similarly, Medal of Honor: Airborne suffered from its choice of Nazi portrayal, as the elite, gas-masked, machine gun-wielding stormtroopers that were Made of Iron could attest to. Also, in the first level you face Italian blackshirts, who speak their own language but carry German weapons and are intentionally programmed to be much more incompetent than the German soldiers who take over for them after ten minutes.
    • However, in the original Medal of Honor, one of the missions consists on the sabotage of a heavy water factory, which is hidden inside a hydro power plant in the Norwegian town of Rjukan, which is better, but still unhistorical. This is also a Shout-Out to the war film The Heroes of Telemark.
    • The series has also, generally, had consistent cases where the games insist Americans were at least involved, if not the main fighting force, in several battles they played a minor role in or were not involved with at all. Airborne is a particularly notable offender in this regard, going so far as to insist Operation Market Garden - one of the Allies' most notorious bungles during the war, as the earlier Frontline was perfectly willing to acknowledge - was a complete and total victory. This even extended to the modern-day reboot, where the second mission tasks the player, a Navy SEAL, to take over the air base at Bagram in Afghanistan - when the real base was taken by the British Special Boat Service.
  • The FPS Prey (2006) has an odd portrayal of the Cherokee tribe via the Land of the Ancients. Since the spiritual realm of the Cherokee is presented as a vast range of mountains and canyons, and the game takes place in Oklahoma, you'd probably think they're a western tribe. But the Cherokee were relocated to Oklahoma from their homelands in the southeast in the 19th century: any spiritual recreation of their native lands would look like forests and rolling hills. Perhaps Tommy's tribe was originally Sioux, and got switched at the last minute, or it might just be a projection of the area he considers home, where his family has lived for generations. Or then again, maybe the makers were just thinking of the windswept deserts of Georgia...
  • Battlefield 1942 completely ignored how its weapons were used in actual history. The assault class of each army gets a historical machine gun which functions in-game as an assault rifle, and the engineer classes get the bolt-action rifles that were really the standard-issue weapons of most armies. The worst offenders, though, are the stationary machine guns, which do not cause a whole lot of damage, and whoever uses them stands up straight, completely exposed to enemy fire. Interestingly, the mod Forgotten Hope added historical weapons, and the result was a game which was much more authentic and more fun to play.

    Four X 
  • The "Road to War" World War II mod for Civilization IV suffers from this. A combination of No Swastikas and No Hitler suggest that World War II was, in fact, fought against a non-Nazi military regime in Germany led by Franz von Papen. The developers did release a patch later which allowed one to play with swastikas and Hitler, though the patch was not released in Germany for obvious reasons.
    • Not to mention the fact that the A.I.s of the participating countries are in no way compelled to follow the actual events of the war, or even follow a similar foreign policy. As such, you will end up with various nations making separate peaces or joining up to attack others, along with highly improbable alliances. It is essentially guaranteed that Germany will sue for peace with France after taking Paris.
    • The North Africa Campaign map that was bundled with the original release got around this problem by having the civilizations "led" by the various actual North African theater commanders—meaning, yes, Rommel for the Germans. They still had to go with the iron cross as an emblem, though.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • The otherwise historically accurate Stronghold series is insistent on calling its typical medieval halberdiers "Pikemen" and their weapons "Pikes", despite their weapons, 6-7 foot tall axe-headed poles looking nothing like actual pikes, which are, in reality, 10-25 foot long spears (and are more typical for early modern than medieval Europe). This is more of a mistake on part of the devs than deliberate revisionism.
    • Don't forget the "spearmen" who simply chuck their spears at the enemy. Normal spears are weighted and balanced, so they would be nearly impossible to throw. Instead, you need a specially crafted spear known as a javelin. Therefore, the "spearmen" in the game are really just javelineers/javelinmen, although Stronghold is hardly the first or last offender to mess this up.
  • The final mission in the Age of Empires II: Age of Kings tutorial scenario features William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk. The historical Wallace fought on an open plain. In the game, the battle was presented as a siege (the only gameplay which hadn't been demonstrated beforehand). Also, Wallace survives.
    • In the expansion, which features Aztec men-at-arms with European-style medieval period uniforms and broadswords made of iron, and portrayed them as actually having had a chance against Cortez, what with his cannons and inadvertently imported diseases. Though, in the game's defence, all of its civilizations have the exact same look to their units, with the exception of those that are unique to them. At least the Aztecs and Mayans weren't given cavalry units — they use their Eagle and Jaguar Warriors as a more believable footman substitute for horsemen (but with pretty much the exact same characteristics due to balancing issues).
  • However, none of the above beats the most unbelievably bizarre Historical Revisionism in the Age of Empires series, which is in III. Beyond the main game's plot- which is about the Fountainof Youth and features fights with, among others, Russians in Colorado at one point- the expansion, Asian Dynasties, has the whopper. During the Chinese campaign, during which the player rides around on a Treasure Fleet boat, the campaign eventually leads to SOUTH AMERICA, where the Chinese have a massive war with the locals. The game's excuse for why archaeologists aren't constantly stumbling over what must be a staggering amount of debris from this war? The Chinese leader tells his soldiers to "comb the beaches" of their presence afterwards, and leave nothing. It's one of the more ridiculous possible Hand Wave options in a supposedly historical series.
  • Age of Mythology has its on take on the siege of Troy. Besides several smaller details, most of which can be blamed on Gameplay and Story Segregation, it has several blatant inaccuracies when compared to the original story, such as the absence of Menelaos, or the issue of rescuing Helen. The slaughtering of the Trojans which the Greeks were particularly proud of, oddly goes unmentioned as well.
  • Battlestations: Midway features John F. Kennedy in his famous PT-109 helping out the player character during the Battle of the Philippines in 1941, despite the fact that Kennedy wasn't even in the Navy when the Philippines fell in 1941 and the PT-109 wasn't even built until mid-1942.
  • Hearts of Iron wisely refuses to address such things as the Holocaust, gulags or terror-bombing either in-game or on the official forum. It also has No Swastikas, which gets pretty ridiculous: Nazi Germany is shown to use the Imperial Colors of black-white-red, which they actually banned in 1934 as a "reactionary symbol".
    • Bizarrely justifiable given the in-game mechanics, where each nation can either change slowly (via ministerial sackings/appointments and slider changes) or be drastically changed (via coups) to any other ideology. Which means that the Third Reich is one lucky coup away from getting a neo-Monarchist or even Communist cabinet (and indeed, the former is exactly what happens via event if the Western Allies steamroller Hitler's regime within a year or so of the invasion of Poland). As such, having the Kaiser and his comrades ruling using the NSDAP's flag would be naturally quite bizarre, and so there was a fair reason (in addition to the censorship laws) to go with the Imperial tricolor.
    • Hearts of Iron is Banned in China for portraying the various warlords as independent. There is a Chinese government-approved version which has a unified China and removes the (illegal in China) flag of Tibet. There are also several mods which give the Third Reich its swastikas back.
  • In Empires: Dawn of the Modern World , during the Patton campaign, Patton chooses to invade Sicily to capture valuable scientists who are assisting Hitler in building a nuclear bomb. His Real Life questionable choices in ignoring Montgomery's Sicily strategy apparently had nothing to do with ego at all.
    • Richard's campaign is full of this as well. Scottish Highlanders that can be recruited by the English, for instance.
  • Despite its usual penchant for being fairly accurate, the Total War series had a few particular goof-ups in the original Rome: Total War. First off, they portrayed the Egyptians as stereotypical New Kingdom Egyptians with kopeshes and big, silly headdresses. In reality, the Egyptians of this time period dressed and fought more like Greeks with a slight Egyptian flavor.
    • Speaking of the Greeks, they are now a unified faction instead of the numerous little city-states that they were in real life. Justified, however, due to engine limitations making it difficult to accurately represent all of the Greek states.
    • Finally, we have the barbarians. Not only are they the stereotypical Barbarian Tribe, but they also fight completely wrong. In real life, the Germans were light infantry fighters who usually wielded spears. In Rome: Total War, they are all shirtless howling brutes who fight with giant axes and pike phalanxes. The berserkers quite literally stand a good foot or so taller than the other units in the game.
      • In addition, the Britons have a unit that attacks by throwing severed heads. In reality, the Britons collected severed heads as trophies, and this is pretty much the equivalent of having a unit that fights by throwing medals at their enemies.
  • Imperivm goes from being rather historically accurate to committing all sorts of historiographical crimes in a single civilization.
    • According to the game, every Roman occupation that was minimally related to war or fighting in real life, like tribunes, gladiators and charioteers, fought on the battlefield and was part of Rome's regular armies. This includes bizarre misplaces like murmillos fighting along with legionaries, war chariots being used a la Persian way and tribunes wielding two swords at once.
    • Gauls and Germanics in Imperivm are straight out of Conan the Barbarian or your average fantasy RPG, as they show off all sorts of war axes, spiked maces, gigantic hammers, bulky armors, fantastic helmets women warriors (the last one is semi-legit in case of the Germanics, but greatly exaggerated). Only Britons are relatively similar to how chronicles describe them.
    • Carthage is not an exception either, as it seems the produces were aiming to give out the exact opposite portrayal of how Hannibal's army was actually in real life. Everybody is black instead of Moor or Semitic, they lack cavalry even in units that were historically cavalry-only like the Numidians, and their in-game specialty is Zerg Rush instead of skillfull strategizing as the Barca family was known to do.
    • All Iberia is portrayed a single, unified civilization. While this could be justified as a producers decision in order to avoid having a myriad of uninteresting tribal factions, it has the consequence of giving out a really bizarre mishmash of Celtic, Indo-European, Phoenician and Greek influences in their cities and units.
  • Ancient Wars: Sparta avoids it most of the time, but it has a few deviations as well.
    • Persian Immortals and sparabara infantry are there a match for Greeks hoplites for gameplay equality's sake, when in real life they were basically cannon fodder in terms of weapons, armor and training.
    • The game repeats some of Total War's errors in the Egyptian civilization, as it gives them khopeshes and pharaonic headgears for everybody, even although the rest of their troops are vaguely accurate. Bizarrely enough, also, its two main heroes are given Muslim names, even although one of them is supposed to be based on a (chronologically misplaced) historical character.
    • The Spartan side has peltasts, a unit that wasn't used until long after the Greco-Persian Wars and that Sparta never issued (it was origined in Thrace and later adopted by Athens and Macedonia).
  • Empire Earth makes the bold decision of playing as the Germans during World Wars 1 and 2. During the second part, there are no references to which political party is running Germany, and it even ends with the successful invasion of Britain (As you might have noticed, Operation Sealion never took off in Real Life).
    • There are a few other but less-noticeable differences in other campaigns. The second mission of the English Campaign involves Guy of Burgundy, a rival of William the Conqueror, being killed at the Battle of Val-es-Dunes when he survived in actual history, and the final mission of the same campaign features the Battle of Waterloo in which Napoleon is killed. The Roman Campaign in the expansion pack, meanwhile, concludes with Caesar's Egyptian campaign but gives the player the option to side with either Cleopatra, as he did in real-life, or Ptolemy, who he fought against historically. The Learning Campaign in the sequel, focusing on the Aztecs, is straight-up alternate history, though.

    Shoot 'Em Up 
  • Vasara has a flimsy but confusing plot. It is supposedly set after the siege of Osaka and the fall of the Toyotomi, but the year given (1600/Keicho 5) is that of the battle of Sekigahara, which happened fifteen years earlier. One of the player characters is Sanada Yukimura, who was killed in the actual siege of Osaka.
  • 1943: The Battle of Midway has a historically inaccurate title. The battle of Midway happened in 1942, but 1942 was already the title of the game's predecessor.

    Simulation Games 
  • Most, if not all, historical-based city building games, particularly of the City-Building Series, will have you building a particular city from the ground up at a historical date, when in fact it was already an established settlement at that point, but taken over by the faction you're playing as.
    • Averted once or twice in Pharaoh, where you start out with an already functional (if not in great shape) city.
  • A very specific case in Uma Musume, where you can train Haru Urara to be a champion who wins all her races while the actual Haru Urara never won even one of her 113 races.

    Stealth-Based Games 
  • While a number of the inaccuracies in Assassin's Creed are explained away with "the Templars altered the history books", it's hard to conceal the presence of, say, a Gothic cathedral in Acre during the Third Crusade.
    • Damascus is also pretty glaring: The poor quarter you get to explore, teeming with oppressed Muslims just yearning for Saladin to liberate the city? Actually the Christian quarter of the city at the time the game was set. Suggesting that this may have been intentional, the Assassins' Guild and location of the assasination are at the sites of the two largest churches in the city.
      • Explanations are given for historical discrepancies not only in the first game, but in subsequent games as well: in short, history isn't actually being presented exactly as it was either in real-life or in the fictional universe of Assassin's Creed, it's being presented through the Framing Device of the Animus, which shows how the player character perceives the world around them, rather than how it actually was for that ancestor (for example, Altaïr may not have actually had dozens of guards hot on his heels every single time he was noticed, but he felt like he did when he was on the run) and, in some later games, are explicitly stated to have been included in-universe because they're so iconic (the in-game encyclopedia entry for a monument in Black Flag even points out that it makes no sense for it to have been included because it postdated the setting of the game by more than a century but was included anyway because it was a major local landmark). In some cases, though, it's not given an explanation but is because of hardware limitations: namely, the attempt on Lorenzo de Medici's life takes place outside the cathedral that it took place in historically because the developers couldn't manage a scene that took place inside the church and then moved outside.

    Turn-Based Strategy 
  • In the "Risk"-Style Map of Medieval II: Total War (a game set in AD 1080-1525), Finland's central population center is Helsinki (which only became anything more than a small village in the 19th century), which has a castle (that was built in the 18th century). The older capital and then largest city of the country was Turku. Also, the country has a default 50-50 spread of Catholics and Orthodox Christians in the game's beginning year of 1080 (Finland's Orthodox minority has never been even close to those numbers) and is guarded by Viking raiders (Vikings were from Sweden, Norway and Denmark). This is akin to a game where the Protestant Native American Redcoats guarded the city of Washington, DC. and the Lincoln Memorial hundreds of years before Columbus arrived in the continent.
    • Rectified in Empire: Total War: the capital of the Finnish province is Åbo (Turku, the Swedish capital) and Helsingfors (Helsinki) is a mere village that can develop into a port.
      • Though it still misses Viborg (Viipuri), which at the time was the second largest settlement in the land, after Åbo. Possibly missed because after WWII it has been on the Russian side of the border.
    • There are only two orthodox factions in the game. Bulgarian empire is a neutral Sofia region. Territory of medieval Serbia is divided between Sofia and Zagreb regions.
      • Speaking of which, Sofia only became the capital of Bulgaria when the country was restored in the 19th century. The capital of the state that existed between the 12th and the 14th centuries was Tarnovo.
    • In the Iberian Peninsula Portugal and Navarre are fused into a single faction, while Castile-and-León go by the name "Spain" (at the time a mere geographic term that encompassed the entire Peninsula, not one of its states).
    • In Rome: Total War this trope is everywhere. By the start of the game The Selucid Empire is already a rump state, Rome controls all of the Italian Peninsula and is controlled by three families and the senate, and Hellenistic Egypt has an army that would be better situated a millennium before the game and looks like it rolled off the set of The Mummy Trilogy.
      • The over abundance of this trope is what spurred many player mod projects, including Europa Barbarorum and Rome Total Realism.
    • For the mod The Fourth Age: Total War, this is technically an in-universe example of history being changed. It's based off an story of Tolkien's that he gave up on very early in development.Tolkien did state the Fourth Age of Middle-earth was a peaceful time, but details on that era are scarce.
  • Gary Grigsby's World At War series features the Western Allies being grouped together but partially immobilized by "Political Freeze" (meaning that the US is counted as being part of it prior to Pearl and the WA player can use its industrial capacity but can't actually MOVE anything until the US enters the war- which to be fair isn't that out of whack with what actually happened (save for the inability to - say - take the massive army and navy you've been building to fortify the AMERICAN possessions in the Pacific). In addition, China is united under the KMT banner, which is probably for the best considering that China consists of about 8-9 provinces and is EASILY the weakest playable nation in the game, and including Mao and the various warlords would have rendered the Chinese all but unplayable and easy fodder for the Japanese.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • The second half of Mafia II takes place in 1951 and features what is basically The Theme Park Version of the decade, incorporating many elements of the era, from the cars to the Rock & Roll soundtrack to issues of Playboy, that didn't show up until several years later, if not from the early '60s.
  • Mafia III, set in a fictionalized version of New Orleans in 1968, is better with this, at least partly because it's set towards the end of the decade when most of the events and pop culture trends that defined "the '60s" had already happened. The biggest issue it has with history is that the mixed-race Player Character can get in trouble with the law if he walks into whites-only establishments that have signs reading "No Coloreds Allowed". The Civil Rights Act of 1964, passed four years before the game takes place, outlawed such discrimination. Justified, however, in that historically, many segregationist business owners fiercely opposed the law and refused to comply with itnote , with full enforcement only really achieved in the early '70s.