Many years ago, I stumbled upon a couple of overly large files in the file area of one of my local BBSes. Dialing in at a blazing fast 2400 baud, I was left scratching my head as to what on Earth anyone could be wanting to download that would take up two whole (low density) 3.5" floppies! The next time I went over to a friend's house for an after school, I discovered the answer: Wolfenstein 3D. The game simply blew our minds. 3D?! What?! Shooting Nazis?! Yes please! Digitized audio?! Whereas the month, week, even the day before, we had all been perfectly content to download whatever the newest Apogee releases were and briefly tinker around with whatever new 2D platformer they'd produced, but now the world had shifted in our eyes. My friend's brother had spent all night downloading both disks, curious like us, then installed the game the following afternoon and ended up playing nonstop until we walked in on him and discovered the new world awaiting us. Although we didn't know it yet, this absolute gem of an action/adventure game had opened the door to a whole new genre that would soon overtake the gaming world and keep it held tight in its jaws for decades to come--the first person shooter.
At the time, we didn't realize that Wolfenstein 3D wasn't really the first game of its name. Around a decade before, on machines that we had mostly forgotten about when fancy VGA graphics, 386 processors, and 16-bit sound cards had swallowed us whole, the basic structure of the adventure we were now undertaking had actually started as a loosely top-down "stealth" game on machines such as the Apple II, Commodore 64, etc. In the coming weeks, we were shocked to learn that our beloved new toy was considered a sequel to the even-then-classic "Castle Wolfenstein," something that only some of our parents had ever heard of before it started getting name dropped in magazines all over. While we didn't get the chance to play it then, I did get to pick it up some years later and, sadly, I was more than a little disappointed. Even though a lot of truly classic 8-bit gaming scratches the itch for me, the original Castle Wolfenstein just didn't.
Sooner, rather than later, despite our original sense of wonder and joy, Wolfenstein 3D was soon replaced by other games of the newly spawned genre, some even by the same developer. However, some years later, I heard the name again and became curious, discovering that another sequel-of-sorts had been created, Return to Castle Wolfenstein. My palms got sweaty at just hearing the name, and I knew that I had to play this game as soon as I could. Sadly, I was quote disappointed, as instead of it blowing my mind the way its immediate predecessor had, I felt that us fans had been thrown into basically a generic WWII 3D shooter. I put the game away, then got curious again when another game sporting the name surfaced, "Enemy Territory." I was once again disappointed, and more or less resigned to skipping anything else with the name "Wolfenstein" slapped on it. However, 5-6 years later, a "whole new take" on the game was released in "Wolfenstein" in 2009. Again curious, I picked up a copy and, alas, was once again quickly bored and annoyed, putting it away alongside all the other games I no longer find any joy in.
Sadly, it seems, the first (SECOND!) Wolfenstein, at least to me, truly was the greatest.