Oh say can you see...
The United States of America has been pretty lucky over the 200+ years of its existence, because despite having plenty of resources and desirable real estate, basically no one has made a serious effort to invade. Great news for those of us who bleed red, white, and blue (figuratively; if literally, see a doctor), but that hasnt stopped anybody from fearing one. When you fear an invasion, yet have no context for how one would actually go, you start to wonder. And when you start to wonder, you get video games like the upcoming Homefront The Revolution.
But Homefront wasnt the first to put it all out there for America. Plenty of other games had thought about the same things and put America at the end of a vicious invading force--just not always the same one. Here we have 11 groups that invaded the U.S. in video games, from entire nations to individual nutsos. Time to get our Red Dawn on.
South America (Call of Duty: Ghosts)
Some attacks you just dont see coming. Like maybe bombardment of a significant portion of the U.S. by a super weapon from outer space. Launched by South Americans. Huh. Yeah, thats a bit out of left field. Or the stratosphere. ZING!
In Call of Duty: Ghosts, the main conflict that our heroes need to suit up for is a longstanding, bloody war with The Federation, a collective of South American countries including the likes of Venezuela, Brazil, and Chile. A Federation strike team hijacks a weaponized space station capable of decimating entire nations (a space station launched by--you guessed it--America) and turns it on the U.S., laying waste to most of the southwest states. The main events of the game, set ten years after this attack, show the U.S. military still fighting the good fight after a land invasion that took even more territory, and a never-ending sea of enemies trying to beat them down. Turns out that, all that time, the Federation was building another armed space station to finish off the American forces once and for all. Clever bastards.
Nazis (Wolfenstein: The New Order, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, Panzer General)
Want to show how despicable the enemy of the day is without much explanation or backstory? Make them Nazis, or--at the very least--close approximations. Many games have taken this very, very, very well-trodden path, though some go a bit further than than others. Some take it all the way over the edge of a cliff and have the Nazi scourge invade the beacon of capitalist freedom that is the United States of America. Holy Pastorius!
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a popular recent example, and even though the fighting takes place in Europe, its made clear that the Third Reich forces have boots on the ground in the surrendered U.S. Other games take a more straightforward approach, like Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, which shows a full-scale invasion of America by German forces where you play as a resistance fighter trying to survive the conflict in one piece. Still other games go right off the rails with this trope, like Panzer General, where youve only truly succeeded as an Axis power when you manage to invade Washington.
Oh China, with their confusing eating utensils, daunting business savvy and ominously large loans--its only a matter of time before they come to collect their due from our freedom coffers. Thats exactly what happens in the Fallout universe, where China invades Alaska in 2066, leading to the breakout of biological and nuclear war to capture Americasfreedompipelines. Yes, that.
Admittedly, America maaaay have provoked them a little bit. In this version of events, China gets to the last oil reserve in the world first and starts processing it for themselves. Of course America cant have that, so it possibly-kinda sabotages the whole operation and installs its own rig. In response, China invades Alaska and sets up spy operations all across the U.S., leading to full-scale war. Then somebody sets off a nuke and, well, you know the rest. So maybe Americas a little to blame because, well, were not the best sharers, okay?
Mexico (Deus Ex)
This one hits a little close to homelike, physically, but also figuratively. Ever since the U.S. seized the territory that now composes the American southwest, the idea that Mexico might one day try to take it back has hovered about, becoming an ever-present talking point for polarizing politicians and surly liquor ads. While the likelihood of a land invasion of America is low right now, Deus Ex thinks thats going to change sometime in the next thirty years, when the Russo-Mexican Alliance storms over the border and takes back the southern half of Texas.
As the rest of the country collapses on all sides for unrelated reasons, Texas becomes a warzone that cant be entered or crossed without serious reinforcements. (And would have made a sick level, but you know, cuts.) Plus, with U.S. basically fighting itself due to a massive civil war brought on by natural disasters, rampant plagues, and a weakened central government, its entirely likely that the Alliance could expand its takings soon after. So yeah, watch out for that.
A super villain (City of Heroes)
Why a single person--or whatever it is that Nemesis from City of Heroes is--would want to take over an entire country, with no governing experience and little more than a ruthless streak, is a mystery. How do you plan to handle economics, foreign policy, or stop armed insurrections? Well, the answer to that last one is apparently biological warfare, so maybe Nemesis is thinking like a politician when he invades Washington D.C. with an army of robots before swearing himself in as the Emperor of the Americas.
Nemesis plan to march on the Capitol and take over America (as well as lands America doesnt have the authority to surrender--but hey, video games) is certainly nefarious, and only gets worse from there. Turns out he has biological weapons stashed in major cities throughout America, and he sets them off as a distraction for the heroes becausewhy not? Theyre eventually able to vaccinate the population against the toxin and drive Nemesis into hiding--but shamed bad guy or not, this is a dastardly and impressive feat.
The Confederacy (Civil War Generals)
Move over Civil War reenactments--Robert E. Lee: Civil War General and its sequels brings retreading American history straight into the homes of players everywhere, with one notable exception: in this version of events, the Confederacy can win.
As real-time strategy games where you control Confederate armies attacking the Yankees and pushing into their territory, the Civil War Generals series was a steady name in historical revisionism. Getting to relive and rewrite some of the critical events of the American Civil War, you help historical figures survive the battles that killed them (though theyll still disappear from the map anyway--sorry), elevate no-name commanders to new heights, and battle your way across the country for the sake of Dixieland. Do well enough and you get the chance to invade Washington D.C., taking it in the name of the Confederacy and changing history on a massive scale. Unfortunately the Generals series is now woefully out of date and cant be played on most modern computers. Dang, and I know you were all so looking forward to it.
The Soviet Union (So many games)
Ah, the Holy Grail of fantasy America invaders. With the Cold War only a couple of decades behind us and plenty of paranoia built up over the preceding four, the Soviets are still a go-to enemy of choice to this day. As a result, the USSR is the primary antagonist in more games than you can shake a stick at: Bad Company 2, Red Alert 2, Rise of Nations, Freedom Fightersthe list goes on and on. Even when a game takes place in the future where the Soviet Union shouldnt even exist, many pull a big What if? and bring it back anyway. (See Deus Ex--Russo-Mexican Alliance? Sovnet?)
Why so many games, often American-made, focus on the Soviet Union seems to be a weird sense of nostalgia and lost direction. Its almost like America is loath to give the Soviet Union up in a love-hate kind of way. Or maybe its that Russian pundits still do things like forecast the downfall of America in semi-hopeful tones. Little of A, little of B.
Former Soviet ultranationalists (Modern Warfare)
These are the guys who thought the Soviet Union wasnt committed enough. Usually brutal and slightly crazy insurrectionists, they want to bring back the Soviet Union to replace the impotent Russian Federation, because apparently a President that shoots tigers on an afternoon walk isnt intense enough. While they dont show up as often as the Soviet Union itself (because the whole union reconstituting is so much more realistic), they still make an imposing force, particularly in Modern Warfare.
Originally, the focus of the Ultranationalist Party was to take back the Motherland from their puny loyalist enemies. Once they sorted that out, they got good and mobilized before carrying out a terrorist attack on a Russian airport. Framing American soldiers for the deed, they take the fight to Americas door to accomplish what the Soviet Union never did. By the time our heroes mount a counter-strike the east coast and Washington D.C. are already under terrorist control. With guys that dedicated, it takes some serious effort to get them back.
The European Union (Shattered Union)
The road to American invasion is paved with good intentions--or so you would guess so from the European Unions choices in Shattered Union. Following the bottoming-out of the United States after the assassination of the President--and basically everyone else in Washington D.C.--the world economy tanks. Belligerent forces within the remains start to make our old allies across the pond nervous.
To mitigate the damage, the EU sends over peacekeepers to help the situation, and that goes over about as well as you could expect. States start seceding left and right, declaring home-rule even as the EU tries to create some kind of stability. That some kind becomes smothering pretty quickly, and while it struggles to keep the territory together (while dealing with reemerging factions like the Confederacy, who are actually pretty nice guys now) nobody notices Russia casually scooping up Alaska. Interpol then reveals that Russia was responsible for the bombing in D.C.--I mean, obviously--but the EU doesnt get off scot-free either. Seriously, taking over a country that cant even handle soccer? Doomed from the start.
The President (Metal Wolf Chaos)
Running a country aint easy, especially one as large and politically varied as the U.S. Pulling it off takes skill, intelligence, and finesse--or a giant mech suit and a thirst for vengeance, according to the U.S. President in Metal Wolf Chaos. A shooter released exclusively in Japan (and an enlightening look into how the Japanese view American politics), Metal Wolf Chaos tells the story of President Michael Wilson, ousted from office by his traitorous Vice President. Escaping an attempt on his life, President Wilson suits up in a set of mech armor that he keeps around for just such an occasion, and goes to town on major U.S. cities to break his VPs hold over them.
You could saying hes freeing America, but he's just following the Genghis Khan method of liberation, so invasion is still the appropriate word. The game ultimately ends with a battle in space to stop the nuclear destruction of the U.S., which would definitely make for the most interesting Presidential race of all time.
Itself (Also so many games)
You might be noticing a pattern here: in many of these invasions, America itself seems to help the effort along. Deus Ex, Fallout, Call of Duty, Shattered Union--all of these games also involve our 50 states seceding and trying to take each other over, and thats just whats on this list. A breakdown of all the games where the U.S. disintegrates and starts attacking itself could be three times as long. Really, it seems like our greatest fear might be not the country getting invaded, but us invading ourselves. Trippy.
Take a look at U.S. politics and this makes perfect sense. The union has broken up over ideological differences before, and you could set your watch by secession threats that come in during election season. (Im looking at you, Texas.) Though it isnt necessarily a likely occurrence, a breakup of the union has happened 100% more often than a successful invasion, and this anxiety is coming out in our games. Maybe thats why your Homefronts and your Modern Warfares work so well: they give us someone to fight that isnt ourselves. America! F*** yeah!
Dont tread on me!
Thats our list of groups who missed the memo that these colors dont run--or got and just ignored it, I guess. What was your favorite digital invasion? What enemy did you have the most fun kicking to the curb? Tell us in the comments below, for freedom!