Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Wolfenstein

Go To
Pumping Those Wacky Nazis full of lead since 1981.

Wolfenstein is a long-running series of video games created first by Muse Software, then followed by id Software, Gray Matter Interactive, Raven Software, and MachineGames. This series is often regarded as the launch of the First-Person Shooter genre with Wolfenstein 3-D, alongside the later Doom, also by id. So far, the games in the series are the following:

Other media includes:

Most of the series follows the adventures of the soldier William "B.J." Blazkowicz in his war against Those Wacky Nazis. Although 3D had a comical side in some aspects, what with a Secret Level featuring the Pac-Man ghosts, later entries have a more "serious" thematic, with heavy emphasis on the supernatural and occult and experimental weapons development projects, as well as victorious Nazis Alternate History in The New Order onwards.

Common tropes found across the series include:

  • Alternate Continuity: Possibly Wolfenstein 3-D in comparison to latter games. Wolfenstein (2009) and therefore Return to Castle Wolfenstein were confirmed to be set in the same continuity as The New Order and beyond by the developers, and there's direct references to events that happen in them. Wolfenstein 3D's events are never directly mentioned other than intentionally vague notes in following games. See Broad Strokes below.
  • Alternate History:
    • Beyond Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein 3D both have the Player Character (the nameless Allied Soldier in Beyond, B.J. Blazkowicz in 3D) kill Adolf Hitler, bringing a premature end to the Nazi regime, and in the latter case, World War II as well.
    • The New Order, The Old Blood, and The New Colossus have World War II carry on well after 1945 and then eventually end with the Axis Powers defeating the Allies and conquering the world.
  • America Won World War II: The saga is all about B.J. taking on the Nazis all by himself.
    • Subverted in The New Order, though, where America loses the war, as does everyone else except Germany, leaving it up to a multinational resistance to bring down the Reich.
  • An Aesop: The MachineGames series spells out in big bold red letters that fascism and especially Nazism isn't just bad because it is totalitarian, but because it is a barbaric, destructive and deeply immoral ideology that inevitably delivers power into the hands of maniacs and beasts, and is seemingly specially designed to enable and promote the absolute worst aspects of the human species. Therefore, it must never be allowed to flourish.
  • Artifact Title: The series is named after a place (Castle Wolfenstein) which appears in about half of the series (Castle Wolfenstein, Wolfenstein 3D, Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein: The Old Blood), and even then only for portions of most of them (first episode of 3-D, first and last few levels of RtCW, first half of The Old Blood).
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: In some of the newer games there are weapons with -kraftwerk in the name, likely as as Shout-Out to the band. While "kraftwerk" is a real German word, it translates to "power station" which is a weird name for a weapon, and somewhat redundant with "electrokraftwerk" (electric power station?)
  • Bad Boss/Fat Bastard: At least one of them per game, and you get the chance to kick their ass in some way.
  • Broad Strokes: Thanks to a combination of Excuse Plot and Sequel Gap, this is true of the franchise as a whole. For specific examples:
    • This is how later games in the series seem to treat Wolfenstein 3-D. It's implied the events of 3-D sort of happened, but B.J. never killed Hitler (who still seems to be alive as of The New Order and does make an actual appearance in The New Colossus; a note that can be found in The Old Blood, however, suggests that BJ did kill Hitler, they simply resurrected him afterwards).
    • The events of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Wolfenstein (2009) and Machine Games installments only roughly line up, with multiple discontinuities between them. The Old Blood is itself sort of a broad-strokes retelling of the first chapter of Return to Castle Wolfenstein - it has the same basic plot of B.J. and an Agent One being captured in the eponymous castle, B.J. escaping into the nearby town of Wulfburg via cable car after Agent One's demise to meet a local Kreisau Circle resistance member named Kessler, then taking out a supernatural threat (which is preceded by a random Zombie Apocalypse) brought back by the SS Paranormal Division, whose activities in the area are headed by a woman named Helga. The aforementioned supernatural threat even ends up being a creation of Otto I, the son of the warlord the Nazis were spending the entirety of Return trying to resurrect. Additionally, an early journal objective description in The Old Blood notes that nobody has ever escaped the prisons, let alone Castle Wolfenstein itself, which implies that at least the first part of Return happened differently (as well as the entirety of the original games).
  • Canon Welding:
    • Word of God states that B.J. Blazkowicz is the grandfather of Commander Keen's Billy Blaze and the great-grandfather of Doomguy, although this is questionable as of the MachineGames titles (especially since Billy Blaze's father Arthur has been retconned out of existence, as of Wolfenstein: Youngblood).
    • The spin-off Wolfenstein RPG has B.J. Blazkowicz fight a demon known as the Harbinger of Doom, and defeat it by severing An Arm and a Leg from its body. The Harbinger would later become the Cyberdemon from Doom.
    • Wolfenstein shares a universe with the Quake series, as of Quake Champions (where B.J. is a playable character).
    • The presence of the Tomes of Power in 2009's Wolfenstein, along with Galena in Quake Champions, indicate some sort of connection with Heretic and Hexen.
  • Elite Mooks: Every game has some form of them. RtCW and the 2009 one make them female.
  • Gatling Good: About half of the games feature a weapon of this variety, typically as the BFG equivalent. Wolfenstein 3D and Spear of Destiny had the original FPS example, then Return upgraded to a 12.7mm beast called the Venom chaingun. After a no-show in the 2009 game, The New Order and The Old Blood featured the MG 46, a gatling-style cannon made by taking the MG 42, a weapon already infamous in real life for its ridiculously-fast rate of fire, and slapping another three barrels onto it to give it an even more ridiculously-fast rate of fire.
  • Ghostapo: Although considered highly important to the series, historically, it actually has less of a presence than one might expect; most of the various mutants and monster B.J kills are created by superScience (bio-engineering and cybernetics, specifically) rather than sorcery — the zombie-esque "Mutants" of Wolfenstein 3D are created by a chemical substance and are upgraded with implanted guns, for example. Magic appears in only four Wolfenstein games so far:
    • The Spear of Destiny: The Nazis are searching for the titular magical relic. An angel of some description is the game's final boss.
      • In the two expansion packs, you will face an entity known as ”The Devil Incarnate” as the final boss.
    • Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Helga von Bulow and the rest of the SS Paranormal Division are investigating reports of magic in an ancient crypt, and when B.J pursues her there, he fights against first undead mooks, then later an undead monstrosity from centuries past. After a few mission involving increasingly crazy Nazi superscience, he is sent after other elements of the Paranormal Division who are trying to resurrect Heinrich I/Henry the Fowler, with some more undead to mow down on the way. There is also a Nazi alchemist wannabe/occultist in the village of Paderborn, in the last stealth mission of the game.
    • Wolfenstein: Interdimensional travel, Nazis that use magic and/or transform into supernatural abominations, the Tomes of Power from Heretic, magical medallions that give their users god-like powers, and spectral creatures that are totally invisible to the naked eye are all found in the Nazi-occupied city of Isenstadt.
    • The Old Blood: The iffiest of the four, since lore scattered throughout the game makes it clear that the Zombie Apocalypse and the Eldritch Abomination are the creation of alchemical experiments rather than sorcery. It depends on whether one views alchemy as retro-themed Super Science or a form of magic.
  • Gratuitous German: As it's a World War II-based game, it wastes no chance to spew gratuitous German phrases. The MachineGames developed entries put quite a bit of effort into averting it, opting instead to use as accurate German as possible.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Obviously, Adolf Hitler is the franchise's Big Bad, but past his appearance as the Final Boss of 3-D, the Führer is only mentioned as the more realistic plots call for him to be portrayed more accurately. He finally reappears again in The New Colossus but even then he's just an extended cameo.
  • 100% Completion: Across the games (mostly prevalent in the FPSes, all of which even give you an actual completion percentage somewhere in the menu) there are many secrets and treasures scattered across the levels which serve for a major objective.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Ranging on four, commonly called: "Can I play, Daddy?", "Don't hurt me!", "Bring 'em on!" and "I am Death incarnate!"
  • Stupid Jetpack Hitler: Iconic to the series as a whole since it first became a 3d FPS series. Wolfenstein 3D famously involves cybernetically augmented, zombie-like "mutants" in the second episode and Adolf Hitler in a mecha suit as the final boss. Return to Castle Wolfenstein features actual jetpack-equipped Nazi troopers, bio-engineered monsters and the Ubersoldaten, who could be either Elite Mooks in Power Armor, cyborgs or robots. The 2009 game and The New Order go full-fledged Diesel Punk.
  • Large and in Charge: Most of the bosses. The character sheet lists them.
  • Mascot RPG: Wolfenstein RPG is one of the more oddball examples of a RPG spin-off, which it seems to know given its more light-hearted approach to the series.
  • More Dakka: As WWII-based games, this is to be expected.
  • Nazi Gold: A common bonus to collect across the games. The 2009 game even lets it go towards purchasing upgrades for your weapons and the Thule Medallion.
  • Non-Linear Sequel: Thanks to long periods between most releases until The New Order and almost every one accompanied by a different development team, the games tend to have next to nothing in common except for a protagonist named B.J. Blazkowicz, a castle somewhere named Wolfenstein, and Nazis for him to cut swathes through. The only other elements from a post-Id release to stick around for ones beyond that are both from Return - Deathshead, who went on to be the series' sort-of Hitler-analogue as the Big Bad and/or Greater-Scope Villain, and the Kreisau Circle as BJ's primary allies behind enemy lines.
  • No Swastikas: In some countries, the games replace the Nazi imagery with something else.
    • Averted by The New Order and The New Colossus. In a world ruled by Nazis, the Swastika is everywhere, from streetside banners to space suits. There's even one plainly visible on the machine pistol in The New Colossus.
  • One-Man Army: Most of the time, the player will be facing the Nazis by his or herself.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: The series has been all over the place tonally. The original Castle Wolfenstein and its sequel were fairly straight-laced and serious in tone. Wolfenstein 3D went far over to the silly side with Stupid Jetpack Hitler and Ghostapo elements right out of cheesy pulp comics. Then the series got somewhat more serious with Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein 2009, though the pulp elements are very much still present. And with The New Order and The Old Blood, the series got significantly more serious and darker, with the pulp elements being scaled down and treated more realistically. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus retains a lot of this darker and more realistic tone, but also contains a great deal of humor.
  • Those Wacky Nazis
  • Video Game Long-Runners: Ten releases since 1981 all the way to 2017.