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Let's Go Kill Hitler: The Video Game History Behind The Final Boss You Hate

ScottNichols
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Posted April 20, 2012 - By Scott Nichols


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Sniper Elite V2 Pre-Order Bonus: Hitler

On the day of his birth, we take a look back at the video game history of the man who's so fun to kill.

Videogames have produces some fantastically evil baddies throughout their history, from Kefka and Kerrigan to Glados and Ganon. And yet one boss appears time and time again who trumps them all. But as one of the most hated and evil human beings to walk the planet, it’s little wonder why Adolf Hitler and his tiny moustache keep showing up in videogames.

Perhaps it’s in part because WWII makes for an attractive setting, with Nazis being the only enemy to garner less sympathy than zombies. But even then, Hitler wasn’t exactly fighting on the frontlines where most WWII games take place. Hitler is that special sort of evil though, the incomprehensibly irredeemable sort that can draw a player in. Because deep down everyone wants to take a shot at him. So what better way to celebrate the day of his birth, than by recounting his plentiful digital deaths?

Hitler made his videogame debut in 1984’s Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. Unlike its eventual first-person shooter sequels, the original Wolfenstein games favored stealth. Inspired by the real world Operation Valkyrie assassination attempt, players were tasked with sneaking past and deceiving guards to deliver a briefcase bomb to the Fuhrer, then escaping before it explodes. The crude pixels of the time made Hitler difficult to distinguish, but its fiery explosion set a glorious standard for games to come.

Wolenstein

Years later when Wolfenstein returned in Wolfenstein 3D, players got to take a more hands on approach to the Fuhrer’s demise. Of course, while Hitler was evil incarnate, he didn’t exactly do much fighting himself in WWII, so id Software took a creative liberty or two.

After battling through Castle Wolfenstein’s corridors, players came face to face with mecha-Hitler. Quad-wielding chainguns and wearing a mechanized armor suit, mecha-Hitler embodied the twisted figure players expected from the former Third Reich leader and has become his most iconic game appearance. Even after the armor was blown away, he continued to put up a fight with glowing red eyes and a chaingun in each hand. And what happens when he is finally defeated? Hitler melts into a gruesome puddle of Nazi goo.

Meanwhile, Japan didn’t want to be left out of an opportunity to dance on Hitler’s grave. Appearing in many Japanese games as a final boss or main villain, Hitler was often lost in translation for the US releases. Most famously, a revived Hitler was intended to be the primary villain of 1988’s Bionic Commando on NES. The game’s Japanese title even translated literally to “The Resurrection of Hitler: Top Secret.” But even with the removal of swastikas throughout the game and changing his name to Master-D, in the final confrontation when players saw his portrait it was clear whom they were really up against. Surprisingly, despite the censorship of all things Nazi the game’s graphic ending remained intact, allowing players to shoot Hitler in the face with a rocket and watch the gory impact.

Hitler went on to appear in Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode on NES, once again as a revived cyborg. Censorship in localization changed his name to Smirk, but just like Bionic Commando, his distinct facial features gave him away. Players got a good long look at those facial features too, as the final boss encounter pit you against countless Hitler clones whose head flew toward the screen when killed.

Persona 2 Hitler

Speaking of censorship, another appearance by Hitler later in Persona 2: Innocent Sin contributed to the reasons the game’s original PS1 release never made it outside of Japan. When the game was finally ported to the PSP last year, swastikas were replaced with iron crosses and Hitler’s name was nowhere to be found, instead simply referring to him as “Fuhrer”.

When Hitler wasn’t busy wrecking havoc in a cyborg body or getting censored out of Japanese titles, games would place him into increasingly bizarre and elaborate alternate histories. In Command and Conquer: Red Alert, Albert Einstein travels back in time to erase Hitler from history with a paradox-inducing handshake.

Assassin’s Creed II even manages to fit Hitler into its grander storyline, with a glyph detailing his role as a member of the Knight’s Templar who rose to power through use of a Piece of Eden. Rather than the suicide that history remembers, Assassin’s Creed II gives credit to the assassins who finally caught up with their prey.

However, perhaps no game embodies the role Hitler has played in games better than the unfortunately abysmal Operation Darkness. In its imagined alternate history, Hitler draws on the powers of the occult cheat his own death on multiple occasions and raise an army of zombies and vampires. In his climactic battle, Hitler must be killed multiple times and even summons a dragon out of thin air to fight alongside him before finally bursting into flames himself.

It is the epitome of a videogame Hitler. Each incarnation of Hitler in games is more extreme than the last. Often he is deformed through artificial means, such as robotics, magic, or cloning. It is more caricature than anything else; with designers given a free license knowing that any extreme they place him in will never be as bad as his actual deeds.

Videogames are often criticized for being little more than power fantasies and escapism. Of course, that isn’t always the case, but in some cases that may not be a bad thing to provide either. For some, the cathartic thrill of tearing down a figure such as Hitler may be the only way they know to cope with the very real tragedies he inflicted.

Let's Go Kill Hitler: The Video Game History Behind The Final Boss You Hate
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