Predicting the future through popular fiction is always a headache. One specific (and inevitable) war, however, has been the setting for many works of exploratory fiction. Everyone has come up with their own unique twist on how the World War Trilogy is going to end
because global audiences demand an over-the-top-ending to their trilogies.
Video games set in a fictional World War III span the range of plausibility and, accordingly, audience reception. Early games, like 1981’s Missile Command, were simple enough as to not raise eyebrows and breathtaking, modern games, like Battlefield 4 and Arma 3, take a more down-to-earth approach.
But then there are the absolutely ridiculous games that hinge on insane premises, like that the next World War will involve us fighting our would-be robot overlords by the distant year 2010.
6. Terminator: Salvation (2009)
Yes, we were not-so-subtly pointing at this game. To the Terminator franchise’s credit, they were pretty optimistic about how advanced future technology would be back when the series kicked off in 1984.
But when this game references its own timeline as being “13 years after Judgement Day,” which, according to the films, was on Aug. 29, 1997, they effectively put all of one year between the game’s release and the over-the-top, dystopian futurescape… there’s just no excuse for that silliness.
We could forgive the game’s plot if it wasn’t so bad… even by 2009 standards.
5. Chromehounds (2006)
Like some of the other games on this list, alternate history is used to explain away inconsistencies. Chromehounds is a giant robot simulator that pits three fictional nations against each other that are totally not based on America, the USSR, and the Middle East.
You could customize your mech and choose a nation to fight under in real time against other players. The game was enjoyable while it lasted, but the servers shut down in 2010.
The world needs more customizable mech simulators.
4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
Compared to many of the other first-person shooters set in WWIII, Call of Duty: MW3 upped the ante. Sure, the story follows many of the standard tropes for WWIII — some Russian guy is evil, Europe gets invaded again, and *gasp* nuclear war is threatened.
What made 2011’s installment of Call of Duty so spectacular was that, during the single-player campaign, you got to live out all the action in various roles throughout the world. You play as several characters, all with unique backstories, while you hunt down the big bad.
The ending is just so, so satisfying.
3. Homefront: The Revolution (2016)
Based off the premise that North Korea takes over the world, this game is set in an alternate history where the hermit kingdom’s tech industry isn’t as laughable as it is in our timeline. The game places you in a Red Dawn-esque world where you need to start an underground resistance against Communist invaders.
The game wasn’t without faults — mainly in the narrative and character-development departments — but immersive open-world gameplay, complete weapon customization, and a level of difficulty that made you think through every action made the game stand out.
2. Raid Over Moscow (1984)
Cold War-era games about the Cold War were the best. Originally released on the Commodore 64, Raid Over Moscow‘s story begins when three Soviet nukes launch and you’re the only space-pilot able to stop it. You fight your way through to the Kremlin (which, apparently, was the missile silo for all of the USSR’s nukes) before blowing it up. The most unbelievable thing about this game is that it goes out of its way to explain that America can’t just nuke them back because all US nukes were dismantled.
At the time, the game was fairly controversial. European nations were uneasy about selling a game that directly portrayed the destruction of the Kremlin. Unfortunately for them, the controversy only made European citizens want the game more.
Ahh, the good ol’ days when people feared 8-bit graphics could start an international incident.
1. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (2001)
No WWIII game comes close to offering the same level of enjoyment and ridiculousness as Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2. To cut a very long and very confusing story short, Albert Einstein creates a time machine to kill a young Hitler. This leads the Soviets to grow unchecked and, in their liberty, research mind-control technology. And that’s just the first game.
This time around, you need to fight a psychic Rasputin stand-in — or you could choose to play as the Soviets. This game and its expansion pack, Yuri’s Revenge, are considered classics. You’ll need to play through it to understand, really.
The silly live-action cutscenes just make the game that much more hilarious.