In the real world, Adolf Hitler ate a bullet in 1945, was burned in a ditch and had his remains confiscated by the Soviets, who secretly kept them in a shoebox for decades. (There were also rumors he escaped to Argentina, but those can safely be dismissed.) While Hitler the man died some 64 years ago, however, Hitler the character lives on as the (mostly offscreen) villain in countless World War II games. In a few of them, he’s even stepped out of the shadows long enough to be gruesomely shot to pieces or exploded, and yet his many deaths have done nothing to keep his mustachioed scowl from hovering at the periphery of games as recent as Call of Duty: World at War.
His best-known appearance was probably 1992’s Wolfenstein 3D, in which he showed up piloting an armored suit with four chainguns, all to kill some tough-as-nails GI who’d been mowing down the Third Reich’s two-dimensional soldiers and grotesquely large, squarish commanders. He died disintegrating into a puddle of gore while crying for his mistress, but somehow that wasn’t enough to keep the bastard down. He even had the stones to come back for Wolf3D’s direct sequel, Spear of Destiny, although that time he wasn’t even close to being the game’s final boss.
Above: C’mon, you can take him
Htiler’s presence, seen or unseen, is no surprise in World War II games, but he pops up almost as frequently as a villain in non-WWII Japanese games. In Bionic Commando, he was infamously resurrected as Master D before coming face to face with the business end of a rocket.
Perhaps more strangely, he’s also appeared as himself in JRPGs like Operation Darkness and Persona 2: Innocent Sin, which usually involve him being killed in far less gruesome (and therefore more boring) ways:
Killed in: Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, Mortal Kombat III, Mortal Kombat 4, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Mortal Kombat: Deception, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe.
Already we can hear Mortal Kombat fans furiously hammering away at our comments section to tell us that, according to Mortal Kombat canon, the evil soul-snatching sorcerer Shang Tsung has only been killed once. But to hell with MK’s “canon.” Aside from being perpetually retconned, it’s a series of games known mainly for martial artists who murder each other in gruesome ways, and Shang Tsung is one of its central villains. You can’t tell us that its kill-crazy heroes just let him get away, over and over again, like he’s Skeletor. The stakes are too high, Shang Tsung is too dangerous and he’s stolen too many souls to go unpunished.
And anyway, it’s not as if everything else in the series hasn’t died and come back multiple times. Supreme baddie Shao Kahn has exploded more than once, and Johnny Cage, Goro and Liu Kang have all been killed and brought back. It’s not a stretch to assume the same has happened for Shang, and it’s not like that’s any harder to explain than the way his age jumps around from game to game.
Besides, official or not, we’ve killed him countless times, and yet he always survives to fight us again. Sometimes more than once per game.