Wolfenstein is a series that has stood the test of time, with a legacy lasting longer than most gaming franchises today. Each title features the player battling against Nazis in a bid to prevent world domination. While the series has kept its overall gameplay similar since Wolfenstein 3D, its story has gone through numerous iterations, culminating in the current story that started with Wolfenstein: The New Order.
The newer Wolfenstein games contain references to the rest of the series, even despite their status as a reboot. Older titles, such as Wolfenstein 3D, have multiple versions and storylines, making it difficult to place in a definitive timeline. And the original Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein games aren’t even connected to any other title, outside of the Nazi Germany setting.
As a result, this guide will take a look at the major Wolfenstein games in approximate order, starting with Wolfenstein 3D and separating each title into its own timeline.
This timeline consists of games surrounding the Wolfenstein 3D era. Spear of Destiny acts as a standalone prequel, while Nocturnal Missions - despite being labelled as Episodes 4, 5, and 6 - take place chronologically before the rest of Wolfenstein 3D.
Original Encounter also takes place before Wolfenstein 3D, starting as a standalone title. Later, it featured in a bundle with the original game as part of a port to Mac systems. While the exact time frames are a bit hard to follow, it’s likely the standalone games are set further in time from Wolfenstein 3D when compared to the Nocturnal Missions.
Only two games are a part of this timeline. Return to Castle Wolfenstein was the first reboot for the series since the 3D titles, and its console release featured the “Cursed Sands” missions which act as a prologue for the game. The Wolfenstein game released in 2009 was designed as a sequel, but also features its own story elements; it acts as another soft reboot, though stays loosely connected to Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
Story elements and characters from these games are brought over or referenced in newer titles, but they aren’t 1:1 recreations. A notable example is Wilhelm Strasse, a major antagonist that returns in later Wolfenstein games.
New Order Timeline
This timeline contains the latest Wolfenstein games, set in an alternate history where Nazi Germany achieves victory in World War II. The order of these games is relatively straightforward, with The Old Blood releasing as a prequel to The New Order and Cyberpilot taking place just one week before Youngblood.
Though these games take place in an alternate history, there are numerous references to previous entries in the franchise. This includes aforementioned characters such as Wilhelm Strasse, plot points originally from the 2009 title, and even a whole section where you can fight pixelated enemies from Wolfenstein 3D. It’s similar to the latest Doom titles, in that sense - set in its own new world, but containing various nods and references to previous entries.
With such a long-standing series and so many timelines, it’s interesting to see how sales might have influenced these titles. Here are the major Wolfenstein titles in order of copies sold:
8. Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot - ~50,000 Copies Sold
Released alongside Youngblood, Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot understandably sold very few copies. While it offered a unique take on the Wolfenstein series in a VR environment, it was also a very short title without much to offer. Combine that with the fact that it wasn’t playable without a VR headset, and this title was doomed to undersell from the start.
7. Wolfenstein (2009) - 100,000+ Copies Sold
The 2009 Wolfenstein title was loosely connected to its predecessor, receiving only somewhat positive reception while also not standing out much. Its sales were unimpressive and warranted Wolfenstein being rebooted yet again, bringing us the new Bethesda-published titles known today.
6. Wolfenstein 3D + Spear of Destiny - ~1,000,000 Copies Distributed
The original Wolfenstein 3D was designed as a shareware game. Actual sales are difficult to surmise because of that, but it was reported that over 1,000,000 copies were distributed of Wolfenstein 3D - alongside Spear of Destiny, its prequel. This was the first-ever FPS title to become so widespread, influencing other games such as Doom. It solidified the first-person shooter genre in the world of gaming, leaving a mark on history that none can ignore.
5. Wolfenstein: The Old Blood - ~1,000,000+ Copies Sold
Designed as a prequel to The New Order, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood received marginal success. It doesn’t change much in the way of gameplay, simply offering an untold story that players can explore. This title is a standalone expansion, in a way - while it might not be as beloved or successful, it’s a perfectly fine entry into the Wolfenstein series.
4. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus - ~1,500,000 Copies Sold
One of the latest titles in the new Wolfenstein series, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus was highly anticipated by fans. After the cliffhanger ending of The New Order, players explore 1960s America in an effort to spark a revolution against the ruling Nazi regime. With new enemies to face and improvements to the game’s graphics, Wolfenstein II offered a much fresher experience to fans of Bethesda’s previous offerings.
3. Return to Castle Wolfenstein - ~2,000,000 Copies Sold
As the last major game in the franchise until 2009, Return to Castle Wolfenstein leaned further into more “fantastical” elements and storytelling. The game offered stealth elements and ran on a similar engine to Quake III, allowing players more freedom for movement and combat. Players also got to fight undead creatures and mutated foes - elements present in prior Wolfenstein titles, but certainly more fleshed out in this one. Between its console ports adding a new prequel mission and the game itself being well-received, Return to Castle Wolfenstein managed to earn its spot as the third-best-selling title of the franchise.
2. Wolfenstein: Youngblood - ~2,500,000 Copies Sold
While it received less-than-favorable reviews, Wolfenstein: Youngblood is the first game in the series to provide a complete co-op experience. It also features more RPG-like elements such as health bars and experience points, as well as microtransactions to unlock cosmetics and boosters. These changes, while not very well-received, offer perhaps the most unique experience from the rest of the Wolfenstein series. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that Youngblood managed to climb so high on this list.
1. Wolfenstein: The New Order - ~3,000,000+ Copies Sold
Wolfenstein: The New Order kickstarted the latest Wolfenstein timeline with a bang. Set in a world where Nazis won World War II, the player sets out on a mission to assassinate the maniacal Deathshead and cripple the new regime. It essentially modernized the Wolfenstein series, introducing new and returning fans into improved gameplay and a unique, heart-pounding story. It’s no wonder this game tops this list; Wolfenstein: The New Order set a new standard for what future Wolfenstein titles would become.
There aren’t many Wolfenstein games, but the series has left a lasting impact on both the gaming industry and itself. Whether the developers decide to continue this franchise’s current story or remake it again, it’s likely the influences of Wolfenstein 3D and Return to Castle Wolfenstein will play a huge part in future entries.
Sources for sales numbers:
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