While it may be hard to believe now, there was once a time when the World War II setting was considered overused, with numerous games set during the era released every year. In response to World War II consumer fatigue, the market shifted to modern and future settings, but now there are few high quality World War II games available, and almost none that have released on current-gen consoles.
Gamers may have been sick of World War II games 10 years ago, but there now seems to be a rejuvenated interest in the era, indicated by the online enthusiasm over the rumors of Call of Duty going back to World War II, and by the success of the Battalion 1944 Kickstarter. While gamers wait for Battalion 1944 and other new World War II games, they can pass the time by checking out the 9 best World War II video games that have released over the years.
9 1943: The Battle of Midway
The only game on this list with 8-bit graphics, 1943: The Battle of Midway is a top-down shoot 'em up from Capcom. Set in the Pacific Theater, 1943 is a more polished version of its predecessor, 1942, and was an arcade favorite back in the '80s. The game's NES port was also well-received, and with Capcom promising to make remasters a priority, perhaps gamers can look forward to the updated version of 1943 making its way to current-gen consoles as well.
8 Battlefield 1942
Battlefield 1942 may not be playable online after the GameSpy server shutdown, but its importance in the gaming industry should not be understated. Not only did Battlefield 1942 win the coveted Game of the Year award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences in 2002, but it is also the game that birthed the juggernaut Battlefield franchise, introducing its signature 64-player battles to the masses.
7 Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
Whereas most World War II shooters tend to focus on mindless action, Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 is all about smart strategy and tactics. Players have to meticulously manage squads of soldiers as they attempt to survive the harrowing true story of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, which landed behind enemy lines during the Allied invasion of Germany. Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 also has a greater focus on character development than other games of its ilk, resulting in one of the more emotionally mature World War II video game narratives available for gamers to experience.
6 Call of Duty 2
Perhaps the most popular launch title for the Xbox 360, Call of Duty 2 brought World War II to the seventh generation of gaming with style. At the time, Call of Duty 2 represented the pinnacle of FPS graphics and sound design, earning high marks for its presentation and gameplay. Call of Duty 2 is also the game that defined what makes the titles unique, laying the core gameplay groundwork for the many games to follow.
5 Company of Heroes
Company of Heroes is a real-time strategy game that is still able to call itself the highest-rated real-time strategy game to-date. Featuring a deep, robust single-player campaign and an exciting, intense multiplayer mode, the success of Company of Heroes has spawned a critically-acclaimed franchise, with Company of Heroes 2 earning much of the same praise as its predecessor. As is the case with the previously listed Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, those looking for more strategy in their World War II games should consider taking a look at Company of Heroes.
4 Medal of Honor: Frontline
One of the most iconic moments of World War II is the D-Day invasion. As such, many games have attempted to replicate the atmosphere of the chaotic battle, but few have been as successful as Medal of Honor: Frontline. Some consider Medal of Honor: Frontline the peak of the Medal of Honor series, and all it takes is playing through the Normandy invasion to see why.
3 The Saboteur
Whereas most World War II games seem to put players in control of American forces, The Saboteur is quite the change of pace. In this atmospheric neo-noir game, players take on the role of Irishman Sean Devlin, who works to sabotage the Nazis during their occupation of Paris, France in 1940. Devlin works alongside the French resistance, with the ultimate goal of liberating France from its invaders.
2 Wolfenstein 3D
Any list discussing the best World War II games wouldn't be complete without mentioning Wolfenstein 3D. The game not only popularized the first-person shooter genre, but it also explored the disturbing theme of Nazi occultism, and let players do battle with a savage robo-Hitler.
1 Wolfenstein: The New Order
The final game on our list is Wolfenstein: The New Order, a reboot of the franchise that began with the previously mentioned Wolfenstein 3D. Wolfenstein: The New Order may not take place entirely during World War II, but the game tells an intriguing World War II story nevertheless, set in an alternate universe where the Nazis won the war instead of the Allies.
Wolfenstein: The New Order earned critical-acclaim for its brutal first-person shooter combat and shocking story, successfully rejuvenating the dormant Wolfenstein franchise in the process, as a Wolfenstein: The New Order sequel is reportedly already in development.
While there have been many other World War II video games released over the years, the aforementioned nine games seem like the cream of the crop. With excitement over Battalion 1944, it appears as though there is an appetite for more World War II games, especially in this new era of video game consoles. If Battalion 1944 is a success, perhaps other developers will take notice, and we'll see classic franchises like Battlefield and Call of Duty go back to World War II.
Which World War II game is your favorite? Sound off in the comments below and leave us your thoughts on the many video games released throughout the years set during World War II.