Wolfenstein 3D developers remember how Nintendo’s strict censors made their lives “miserable”.
The Super Nintendo port of Wolfenstein 3D is notorious among retro fans for being the worst version of the seminal shooter. Adding to the console’s technical limitations and lousy controls, it was heavily censored, resulting in some bizarre artistic choices.
A new clip from FPS: First Person Shooter, an upcoming documentary about the rise of the genre featuring words from more than 45 well-known developers, reveals the origins of Wolfenstein 3D. Towards the end of the clip, he dives into the Super Nintendo port and what a nightmare it was dealing with Nintendo’s censorship.”
“We knew we had to get rid of some of the Nazi paraphernalia because they wanted to sell the game in Germany,” recalls programmer Becky Heineman. “But the most notable thing was that in the original version of Wolfenstein 3D, there were German shepherds biting you, and Nintendo’s censors totally said, ‘You can’t shoot dogs.’ So we had to turn them into rats.”
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Id Software dutifully turned the dogs into giant rats, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy Nintendo’s censorship team. They pointed out that when the rats attacked hero BJ Blazkowicz, their mouths seemed to bleed. Id Software argued that the red spot was actually the rat’s tongue, but to no avail.
“So we had to remove the tongues from the rats because they reminded Nintendo of blood,” says Heineman. “Censorship made life difficult for us. So we had to do multiple versions before Nintendo said, ‘Okay, you can ship this.'”
Ultimately, getting Wolfenstein 3D on SNES was a frustrating experience for the team at id Software, who had to take on the project themselves in part because the outside programmer they hired just seemed to forget about the project. The SNES port was finally released in February 1994 and has since been panned by fans and critics alike.
FPS has stories like this and more over the course of its 3+ hour runtime, with appearances by genre luminaries like John Romero, Warren Spector, Cliff Bleszinski and many more. The project was successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2021 and is currently in the midst of another round of funding on Indiegogo to help fund post-production costs.
For more stories from PC gaming’s misty past, check out this story about how Sierra On-Line almost bought id software while the studio was in the midst of developing Wolfenstein 3D – a moment that became one of the biggest “was- would-if moments remain in gaming. You can also check out our list of the top 25 best PC games to play right now, including DOOM (2016) and more.
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