Decoding the clues in that surprise Bethesda Indiana Jones game teaser

Indiana Jones
(Image credit: Paramount/Lucasfilm)

Today, January 12, Bethesda announced an original Indiana Jones game from Wolfenstein studio MachineGames in collaboration with Lucasfilm Games. Alongside the announcement, we got a brief teaser trailer full of Easter eggs that point towards the games' setting and its content. 

How has it taken us this long to get an original, fleshed-out Indiana Jones game from a AAA developer you might ask? Well, the Uncharted series and its swashbuckling exploration has technically filled that gap - Nathan Drake and his penchant for treasure-hunting and sass really is our gaming Indiana Jones. That's why the decision to have MachineGames at the helm points towards a conscious choice by Bethesda and Lucasfilm - this game won't be like Uncharted. It'll be like Wolfenstein, and yes, you'll probably be punching Nazis (or at least Italian fascists). 

By looking at MachineGames' work on the Wolfenstein series and the bevy of clues hidden in the teaser trailer, we're able to paint a somewhat blurry picture of what the upcoming Indiana Jones game could entail. 

Nazis. I hate these guys. 

Wolfenstein 2

(Image credit: Bethesda)

MachineGames has worked on the Wolfenstein series since 2014, but the core ideas of the main franchise have remained relatively unchanged. B.J. Blazkowicz and his family are Jewish Polish-Americans fighting against the Axis powers. Earlier games in the series focused on the Nazis' attempt to find and harness supernatural powers. How very Indiana Jones of them.

The modern Wolfenstein games are defined by massive, often absurd set-pieces and wild, frenetic action. There's a whole host of weapons at your disposal that can be customized in ways that seem like a 13-year-old dreamt them up - you want to stick a rocket launcher to the side of an AR? Go ahead, the more Nazis you kill, the better. If you take that into account while looking at the tone of the Indiana Jones films, a shining oasis of potential glimmers on the horizon.

Indiana Jones always gets himself out of situations in the most chaotic ways possible, often at the last possible moment. He's a fan of using whatever is in front of him to get the job done and is constantly stumbling his way through situations (remember the Temple of Doom poison bit?). The chaos and destruction that a Wolfenstein publisher can bring to an Indiana Jones title are absolutely spot-on. I'd expect there to be less Uncharted-style platforming in favor of more breaking random objects over people's heads in order to sneak away undetected.

And MachineGames famously provides fantastically complex and fleshed-out characters. While Indiana Jones certainly has his fair share of problematic tendencies (a modern rewatch of the series can elicit a fair few cringes), he is at his core a much more ethical man than say, Nathan Drake, who goes treasure hunting for corporations and betrays his best friends. Expect a complicated depiction of Indy, one that will have you empathizing with the character beat-for-beat.

With Wolfenstein: Young Blood introducing a semi-open world and Todd Howard of Skyrim fame at the helm, I wouldn't be surprised if the Indiana Jones games has an explorable world with the occasional jaw-dropping set-piece, along with some campy gore moments - that face melt in Raiders of the Lost Ark? This game should take several notes from that.

This ain't no Indiana Jones: Youngblood 

The teaser trailer shared by Bethesda is full of Easter eggs, some more obvious than others. As GamesRadar reported, there are nods to Bethesda, MachineGames, Lucasfilm Games, and Todd Howard hidden amongst items on what is presumably Indy's desk. But it's the smaller, harder-to-see clues that are of the most interest, one of which automatically eliminates the possibility that this game will predate any of the Indiana Jones films.

A plane ticket to Rome places this game in 1937, which means it falls between the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The official announcement on states "the game will tell a wholly original, standalone tale set at the height of the career of the famed adventurer." The announcement also points out that the cryptic teaser "may hold some clues", so naturally, myself and GamesRadar's very own Leon Hurley have been poring over it for hours.

From the trailer, it's clear that Indiana is headed to Rome in 1937 - the same year Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini returned to Rome after a 1936 trip to Germany resulted in the two countries signing a military alliance and forming the Berlin-Rome Axis. As Hurley points out, 1937 is the same year Mussolini was presented with the Sword of Islam, which certainly resembles a relic Indiana Jones would search for Looks like our boy is going to be punching fascists and Nazis in this game - you love a twofer. 

There's a top secret binder on his desk, which implies the US government has a hand in Indy's destination - who else is there to stop the Nazis but an archaeologist, am I right? It appears from the in-progress letter addressed to a "Father [Blank]" on Indy's typewriter that he has a contact at the Vatican. The map the camera pans over may be obfuscated by other objects on the desk, but it's clearly a blueprint of the Vatican, which famously holds ancient relics. 

Then there are the books, which are called Ancient Circles, Myths that Made, and Forbidden Stones. There are miles of gigantic prehistoric stone walls dotted across Italy called Cyclopean Ruins, which leads some to believe that the lands were once inhabited by giants. There are a few of these ruins outside of Rome, in an area once known as Latium, an ancient area in west-central Italy that birthed the capital city of the Roman Empire. There's your supernatural spin, eh?

So, could this Indiana Jones game be following an ancient Italian cyclopean relic that Mussolini wants to get his hands on for more power (or to further impress his buddy Hitler)? It certainly seems like it...

Alyssa Mercante

Alyssa Mercante is an editor and features writer at GamesRadar based out of Brooklyn, NY. Prior to entering the industry, she got her Masters's degree in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Newcastle University with a dissertation focusing on contemporary indie games. She spends most of her time playing competitive shooters and in-depth RPGs and was recently on a PAX Panel about the best bars in video games. In her spare time Alyssa rescues cats, practices her Italian, and plays soccer.