Try to be subtle about it
Nazis are one of the most prolific enemy types in all of gaming. Hell, they're amongst of the most frequently seen hero-troublers in all of fiction. The rationale is obvious, of course. As one of the most infamous and downright evil regimes in human history, the Nazis are an easy, quick-fix villain. Don't have time for hours of backstory and motivation? Then your bad guy is a Nazi. Unquestionably vile, no questions asked, and his sinister machinations are a perfect fit for any scale of global societal domination that your plot may require. They're so handy that many series have built entire franchises upon their smoking corpses; see Wolfenstein: The New Order for the latest rather fine example.
But what if your game isn't set in the 1940s? What if it isn't set on Earth at all? How do you utilise everyone's least favourite, totalitarian, elitist freedom-stompers then? Simple. You put a toothbrush moustache on a Goblin King warlord and call him Alfodor Hiltross. And lo, you have your very own, lore-specific, proxy-Nazi. And trust me, games do that all the time...
The Empire - Final Fantasy VI
Theyre not technically Nazis because: They exist within a fantasy steampunk world, and their tanks have legs rather than caterpillar tracks.
But theyre definitely really Nazis because: They have a distinctly worrying obsession with physiological superiority, not to mention occult empowerment. Having invaded the magical land of the Espers and captured a few of its inhabitants to power their superior Magitek weapons, the Empire then starts to experiment with infusing its soldiers with that same energy to create an army of mystical supermen. Oh, and they salute with one raised hand (could be a limitation of 16-bit animation, but still) and have red banners with black logos on. And their Emperor is called Gestahl. Which sounds a bit German.
Shadaloo - Street Fighter series
Theyre not technically Nazis because: Theyre a global crime syndicate rather than a politically driven regime.
But theyre definitely really Nazis because: Shadaloo have designs on global conquest, and no mistake. Theyve been quietly building an army of enforcers for years by the time of Street Fighter 2. That alone wouldnt be enough to qualify for Nazi status, but consider also the fact that the organisation wants only the brightest and best, organising the World Warrior tournament to find the most peak physical specimens to join their ranks. It goes even further in Street Fighter 4, with Seth overtly cherry-picking the desirable traits from every fighter who goes up against him. Its eugenics by way of elastic-limbed underpants combat. Also, just look at M. Bisons costume. Its like Hitler had sex with a post box.
The Thalmor - Skyrim
Theyre not technically Nazis because: Theyre Elves. There were no Elves in the Nazi party.
But theyre definitely really Nazis because: Theyre fuelled by a massively racist political rational of genetic superiority, and have a particular +5 axe to grind with the followers of a certain religion. Oh, and theres also a strong possibility that they selectively kill babies in order to keep their bloodline pure. And they definitely annexed the land of the Bosmer Wood Elves, which for the purposes of this barely-veiled analogy stands in for Austria.
The Helghast - Killzone series
Theyre not technically Nazis because: Theyre an off-world alien race, rather than Germans. And they live in the future, rather than the past.
But theyre definitely really Nazis because: The entire history of the Helghast is just the story of the Nazi rise with the names and the dates changed. Seriously. Wikpedia, CTRL+C, CTRL+ V. Lore for an entire game franchise done. During the fallout of a major war defeat, the Helghast retreated to a new colony on the harsh planet of Helghan. Following that, brutally unfair trade and tax arrangements imparted by the victorious Earth subjugated Helghans people into economic depression. Poverty, misery and desperation followed. And then a charismatic new leader by the name of Visari rose, taking advantage of the unrest to overthrow the ruling class. Also, the Helghast are obsessed with their own superiority, and their logo is totally a three-legged swastika. Seriously, Guerrilla. Not even trying.
The UPL/UED - StarCraft series
Theyre not technically Nazis because: They just want to unite Earths people through the eradication of ethnic segregation and racism, with the ultimate goal of a global enlightened socialism. Theyre really passionate about it too, going as far as making English the sole language spoken by everyone, and legally banning all religions so as to avoid any conflicts Oh hang on
But theyre definitely really Nazis because: Enforced International Socialism is exactly the same as enforced National Socialism. Particularly when you start ensuring an equal genetic playing field for all, by way of executions and experimentation programs.
The Black Lance - Wing Commander 4
Theyre not technically Nazis because: Theyre a special forces division, theoretically fighting for the good guys.
But theyre definitely really Nazis because: The Black Lances leader, Geoffrey Tolwyn, is obsessed with equipping humanity against the--hitherto imagined--threat of any further marauding alien races after the Kilrathi. But his methods are a bit extreme. How extreme? Artificially engineering endless war in order to keep the human soldiers on their toes, creating a new generation of genetically superior super-soldiers, and using bio-targeted genocide to take out the undesirable part of the population extreme. Good times if you happen to be a genetically superior super-soldier, but if not, youre basically a space-minority.
Team Galactic - Pokemon Platinum
Theyre not technically Nazis because: Theyre in Pokemon, and everything is nice in Pokemon, right?
But theyre definitely really Nazis because: Theres the small matter of a cutscene featuring a full-blown political rally, in which Team Galactics leader espouses the joys of a future free of imperfection, in front of an adoring, mesmerised, chanting crowd. Which could be purely coincidental imagery, of course, except for the fact that it clearly isnt.
The Covenant - Halo series
Theyre not technically Nazis because: Theyre an alien empire united by theocratic dogma rather than political ideology.
But theyre definitely really Nazis because: An intolerant zealot by any other name is still an unpleasant dickhead. And an intolerant zealot with an army is a major problem for everyone he comes into contact with. Okay, so the High Prophet of Truth died by way of Flood infection and plasma sword rather than a self-inflicted bullet wound in a bunker, but one militarised ideological shit-monger is effectively the same as any other, whatever crap hes spouting.
The Combine - Half-Life 2
Theyre not technically Nazis because: Theyre interdimensional aliens from God knows where.
But theyre definitely really Nazis because: Totalitarian control of state? Check. Invasive control of the private lives of citizens? Check. Brutal hybrid of police force and military? Check. Indoctrinated, collaborating, indigenous colony leaders? Yeah, they do that as well. Sinister, out-of-town prisons and death camps? The Combine are all about that shit. Ever-spreading empire of subjugated peoples, fought only by a dwindling, under-equipped, improvised resistance movement? Oh youd better believe it. And just in case you hadnt got the point yet, City 17s production design makes it an ambiguous analogue for all of Europe. Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein giant floating slug thing.
So there's my rundown of the most blatant not-Nazis in gaming. But can you think of any others? Have you fought any other fictional fascists (for freedom!) along your travels, and found them a little too reminiscent of a certain historical regime? Then name and shame them in the comments.
And while you're here, check out some of our related stuff. If you're in the mood for perforating a few thousand ultra right-wing skulls, our review of Wolfenstein: The New Order should be your first port of call. And if you're on more of a general bad guy kick, have a look at our heaving great compendium of The 100 best villains in video games.