10. The Saboteur
When it comes to games set during World War II certain franchises quickly come to mind, however, The Saboteur seems to be a lost treasure of the genre. Set in Paris, France, players assume the role of Sean Devlin who is an Irish mechanic that seeks revenge against a German Officer. What made this title so unique was the striking visual design that set Paris in shades of black and white until such areas were liberated and thus regained their color. This unique look allowed The Saboteur to stand out among other military based titles of the time like Medal of Honor or Call of Duty.
Players also got to drive, shoot, beat up, and sneak their way through the streets of this famed city, as The Saboteur was an open world title. By doing this, developer Pandemic Studios allowed users to have more freedom in how they approached different targets and dealt with missions. Even though some of the side activities got repetitive, the moment to moment gameplay was more than enough reason to take back Paris.
9. Company of Heroes
For those who like to indulge in games set during World War II you are rarely ever pulled away from any of the action, as many titles prefer to tell their stories in first person. Yet, Company of Heroes takes a more tactical approach, opting for a RTS style of play.
Users are required to not only manage their army, but collect and protect resources from your enemies. Where Company of Heroes really shines is in its story, as the game delivers a surprisingly deep and nuanced cast of characters. Couple this with the solid mechanics to get one of the best RTS titles of the modern era.
8. Call of Duty: World at War
Call of Duty: World at War was an odd title as it released right after the massive success that was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Where World at War shined was in its portrayal of the various different factions battling across the entire planet. This not only allowed for certain areas, such as the Pacific Theater, to have a moment to shine, but acted as a pseudo-documentary for the various fronts that soldiers fought on. It was a smart way to keep the story from slowing down, as every moment felt like a greatest hits track for World War II gaming.
Yet, it was the multiplayer that allowed this title to stand out among the other games in this iconic franchise. Maps were expertly crafted, with users able to not only call in attack dogs, but use flamethrowers and drive tanks. It spawned its own take on the capture the flag/zone control game type called War, which rewarded teams with momentum as the battle swung in their favor.
Every weapon felt perfectly balanced, allowing for players to experiment with a variety of different approach options and play styles. There was a nice simplicity to the combat with every aspect feeling polished to pure perfection.
7. Sniper Elite V2
Sniping is a rather large part in a number of World War II video games, but only one really made it the focus of the mechanics and story. Sniper Elite V2 not only delivered truly compelling gameplay, but wrapped it all up in a bloody, stylized package. The main draw for many fans are the slow motion kills that encapsulate all of the awesome long range shots you make as a sniper.
This not only allows Sniper Elite V2 to stand out visually, but offers a more intimate experience to a normally detached style of play. There was also a fun co-op mode called Overwatch which had someone cover their buddy from a lofty perch, and players were also given a plethora of approach opportunities in the single player, making stealth a viable choice.
6. Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
There are a lot of different types of World War II first person shooters out there, but ones that focus more on realism are typically not as prevalent in the medium. However, developer Tripwire Interactive changed that with Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad which is a multiplayer focused title that rewards smart players. Users not only have account for bullet drop and spin, but have their entire HUD removed, forcing them to check their ammo manually.
This style was a sharp contrast to other military shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty which focused more on an arcade style of gameplay. Thankfully, Red Orchestra 2’s focus on realism really helped it stand out, which was only enhanced by the great level design, weapons, and attention to detail.
5. Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
It’s not uncommon now for first person shooters set in war settings to have an emotionally charged narrative, but back in 2006 Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 was one of the first. Set behind the German lines, players assume control of Sergeant Matt Baker of the 101st Airborne Division and are responsible for disrupting the German forces before friendly forces advance.
While the various set piece moments are thrilling, it’s the softer moments that make this game so memorable. Developer Gearbox Software makes sure that every one of the principle soldiers in your squad get some kind of characterization beyond simple stereotypical roles.
This makes every moment much more climactic, as you will never know when exactly someone in your group will die. All of this is wrapped in a solid package that offers solid shooting, superb voice acting, good visuals, and some clever level design that never punished users for experimenting with different types of weapons.
4. Wolfenstein 3D
The granddaddy to the first person shooter and World War II genre may not be the most emotional, mechanically complex, or even best-looking title to cross our gaze, but it’s one that should always be remembered. Not only did Wolfenstein 3D pave the way for the genre, but it did so in the most hectic and bloody way possible.
The story is simple, you are B.J. Blazkowicz and you’re tasked will killing every Nazi you come across in this ruined castle. For the time, Wolfenstein’s fast paced gameplay was awe inspiring since every corridor was filled with angry German soldiers who wanted to mow you down with machine gun fire.
Then there was the superb level design that was full of hidden treasures and doors that rewarded those who went off the beaten path to explore for goodies. Plus, you got to fight a giant mech driving Hitler at the end which is about as satisfying an ending as we can think of.
3. Battlefield 1942
Perhaps one of the most important multiplayer games to ever release, Battlefield 1942 not only refined online shooters, but revolutionized them. While it may not have been the most visually stunning game, this massive online FPS brought a chaotic war to home computers. Not only could users wield a wide ranging list of unique firearms, but they could drive a variety of vehicles including tanks, jeeps, and planes.
All of this helped immerse players, allowing for them to fight against others on a far larger scale. Speaking of which, every one of the 20+ maps each had their own unique feel, look, and challenges that players would need to adapt around. The impact of this title can be seen far and wide, from the implementation of different roles, to a bigger focus on balancing both infantry and mechanized combat.
2. Medal of Honor: Frontline
The Medal of Honor series of WW2 games has sadly vanished this gaming generation, but when Frontline released back in 2002 it rocked the world. Despite not being the prettiest game for its time, Electronic Arts offered some of the most memorable World War II set-pieces in all of gaming. As if ripped from the legendary war movie Saving Private Ryan, the game opened with storming the beaches of Normandy in all of its bloody glory. This is far and away one of the best intros in gaming history, as it set the stage and let players know that they are in for one hell of a thrill ride.
From here users were taken through ruined cities and Nazi-controlled submarines, each of the various levels delivering new and interesting challenges. Weapons were balanced and fun to use, while the A.I. was surprisingly smart for its time and would often pin you down behind cover if you weren’t careful. We may never see the Medal of Honor franchise again, but its impact on the genre is still felt today.
1. Call of Duty 2
There have been a plethora of titles set in World War II, but none are more iconic than 2005’s Call of Duty 2. Taking every aspect of the FPS genre and refining it to a near perfect point, there is no part of this title that doesn’t stand out. From the unique campaigns that are set across three different armies (Russian, American, and British) to the wonderful characters that inhabit it, Call of Duty 2 was truly the greatest hits for the war genre.
However, it goes beyond that as the gameplay was utterly fantastic with firefights and dramatic moments filled throughout the rather lengthy campaign. The constant shift in character perspective helped remove the tedium of just shooting soldiers, while the plethora of weapons allowed players to try out new ways of dealing death. Graphically, the game looks great and the multiplayer was a blast to play with friends. Call of Duty 2 is not just one of the best war games of all time, but is one of the greatest first person shooters to ever grace the medium.