Wolfenstein 3D is a 3D first-person shooter video game developed by id Software and published by Apogee Software. Originally released on May 5, 1992, for the PC operating system DOS, the game was inspired by the 1980s Muse Software video games Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. A promotional version of Wolfenstein 3D was released as shareware, which permitted it to be copied widely. The game was later ported to a wide range of computer systems and video game consoles.
The shareware release contains one episode consisting of ten levels. The commercial release consists of three episodes, which include the shareware episode and two subsequent episodes. Later releases included a three-episode mission pack titled The Nocturnal Missions. The player assumes the role of a World War II Allied spy William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, who is trying to escape from Castle Wolfenstein, a Nazi German prison. After the initial escape episode, Blazkowicz carries out a series of crucial missions against the Nazis.
Wolfenstein 3D was a critical and commercial success. It is widely regarded as having helped popularize the genre on the PC and having established the basic run-and-gun archetype for many subsequent first-person shooter games.
I remember playing a demo of this game back in 1992 on very low-powered PCs, even for the time, and being amazed at their ability to push 3d perspective graphics like this. Sure, the game isn’t really 3d, and it’s a flat maze, but at the time, the technology was incredibly impressive.
Fortunately, unlike today, game developers didn’t rest after they made pretty graphics. The gameplay behind Wolfenstein 3D was incredibly visceral and action-packed, and the maze-like levels would frequently make you wonder just where in the world you need to go next. If you thought Doom was a key hunt, this was even more wild as you would have to explore tons of dead ends and odd places to find the way to get to the next part of the map and find the exit.
Of course, like many violent games of the day, Wolfenstein 3D had its share of controversy; not only did the entire thing center around Nazis, but you also killed dogs, something animal rights groups didn’t care much for. But in the end, it’s a videogame, and a very solidly fantasy/sci-fi based one as well so you don’t have the realistic grit of a title like Battlefield that makes virtual killing of people and dogs a bit uncomfortable for some.
Controversy aside, it’s still fun, and still holds up surprisingly well for a game generally thought of as “proto-Doom“. It’s available on Steam for next to nothing at times when sales come around, and you can download various source ports (I used ecwolf) to run it without having to deal with DOSbox and have the ability to configure it with more options.