The Gaming Historian

Castle Wolfenstein

Hello and welcome to The Gaming Historian!

If you are unfamiliar with this series, I’ll give a little back story. The Gaming Historian is originally a video documentary series all about the history of video games. You can watch all of my episodes on my YouTube Channel. However, I was given the opportunity to contribute to 1 More Castle and I was absolutely thrilled. History majors are typically really boring writers of non-fiction, so I feel like I am back to true form. Don’t worry, I’ll try to keep it interesting here.

Recently, Wolfenstein 3D celebrated it’s 20th birthday. Hooray! This game is considered the grandfather of first person shooters and really set the bar for future titles. To celebrate this wonderful occasion, Bethesda (who purchased iD software back in 2009) released the game for your browser! You can check out the game here.

However, today I didn’t want to get into Wolfenstein 3D, but rather it’s predecessor: Castle Wolfenstein.

Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, there was a small software company known as Muse Software. They were working on some pretty cool technology for the Apple II computer, including hi-res graphics and voice playback. One day, co-founder Silas Warner (who stood 6’9!) walked into a convenience store and noticed Robotron 2084. Inspired, he decided to create a game in a similar style, but set during World War II. Rather than going around and shooting things like a madman, Warner’s game would use espionage, item collecting, exploration, and interrogation.

In Castle Wolfenstein, you play an allied soldier who has been captured behind enemy lines and taken to Castle Wolfenstein, a castle recently converted to a Nazi stronghold. A fellow prisoner who is dying gives you a pistol and 10 rounds.  It is up to you to find the Nazi war plans and escape the castle.

The game uses a top down view and has you navigating the large Castle Wolfenstein. Along the way you will run into a lot of Nazis. Usually you can kill them and steal items they might have, or you can take them hostage! They will throw their hands in the air while you search for goods. You can even escape a room while they are being held hostage. The castle is also littered with chests that contain helpful items like a Nazi uniform, bulletproof vest, grenades, and more. You can even find alcohol and get drunk (which throws off your aim). Castle Wolfenstein was a fantastic action game when it was first released in 1981 and it still holds up today. It was also one of the first stealth-based games.

In 1984, Muse Software released a sequel Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. In the sequel you must infiltrate a Nazi bunker and kill Adolf Hitler. Fun! But in 1987, the company went out of business. In 1991, iD software was looking for a new game to develop after the success of Commander Keen. They fondly remembered Castle Wolfenstein and how much they loved it and decided to create a “spiritual sequel” to the game. iD Software received permission from Silas Warner of Muse Software and created Wolfenstein 3D. The game even pays homage to the original, starting you out in a jail cell with a pistol. Sadly, Silas Warner died in 2004 from kidney disease.

I remember this game quite well and it brings back a lot of memories. This was one of the first games I ever played. I wasn’t very good at it, but I would watch my brother play all the time. Hearing the guards yell “Halt!” still sets me into a panic.

I highly recommend playing the original Castle Wolfenstein game. It is considered abandonware now, so load it up on your DOS emulator and have fun. Schnell!