Wolfenstein 3D Devs 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 pioneering shooter. On top of the console’s technical limitations and lousy controls, it was heavily censored, leading to some bizarre artistic choices.
A new clip from FPS: First Person Shooter, an upcoming documentary about the rise of the genre with words from more than 45 well-known developers, showcases the origins of Wolfenstein 3D. Toward the end of the clip, it delves into the Super Nintendo port and what a nightmare it was deal with Nintendo censors.”
“We knew we would have to get rid of some of the Nazi paraphernalia due to the fact that they wanted to sell the game in Germany,” programmer Becky Heineman remembers. “But the most notable thing was that we had German Shepherds in the original version of Wolfenstein 3D come ahead and bite you, and Nintendo’s censors were totally like, ‘You can’t shoot dogs.’ So we had to change them to 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 that when the rats attacked the hero BJ Blazkowicz, their mouths appeared to be bleeding. Id Software argued that the red smudge was actually the rat’s tongue, but to no avail.
“So we had to remove the tongues from the rats because it reminded Nintendo of blood,” Heineman says. “The censors made our lives miserable. So we had to do several versions before Nintendo said, ‘Okay, you can ship this.'”
Getting Wolfenstein 3D on SNES was ultimately a frustrating experience for the team at id Software, who had to take on the project themselves in part because the external programmer they hired seemed to simply forget about the project. The SNES port was finally released on February 1994, and it has been panned by fans and critics alike ever since.
FPS has stories like this and more over the course of its three-plus-hour runtime, with appearances by genre luminaries including 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 the cost of post-production.
For more stories from PC gaming’s misty past, check out this tale of how Sierra On-Line nearly bought id Software while the studio was in the midst of making Wolfenstein 3D — a moment that remains one of gaming’s biggest “what-ifs.” You can also check out our list of the 25 best PC games to play right now, which includes DOOM (2016) and more.
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