Do you think the Nazis knew they were the bad guys? Did any of those guys honestly think history would look back upon them kindly? Nowadays everyone looks down on all that 19th century empire building most of Europe did, and they were technically "winning," even if Africa didn't realize it was supposed to be a competition at the time.
And even then, the European imperialists were only trying to spread their idea of civilization to less advanced nations, even if they didn't stop to ask how the less advanced nations felt about it. At least they were only killing people if they got in the way, rather than just because they didn't like the way their noses looked.
Nazi Germany managed the triple whammy - they invaded other countries without cause, murdered non-combatants, and monitored and oppressed their own people. A nation can usually get away with one or two of those without being outright demonized - the Roman Empire only got as far as the first, the Mongols the first two, and the modern-day United States gets away with
two, one, all three an irresponsible lack of support from the liberal media, but it's only Nazi Germany that made the hat trick and won the title of "Worst Humans Ever."
I wonder if Hitler would have gone about things differently if he'd known what sort of legacy he was leaving behind, and if he weren't completely doo-lally. To forever spoil the fashion value of a perfectly good mustache. To be brought up for the rest of eternity in dodgy hypothetical arguments on internet forums. And, of course, to be repeatedly murdered along with his entire army in every videogame since the dawn of time (in this case, 1981).
I used to think that the sheer, crushing amount of games set in World War 2 was due to Americans wanting to endlessly re-live their one moment of unqualified glory in living memory. But now I think there's another reason: It's because Nazis are so fucking easy to write. Whenever there's a Nazi in the room, just think of the evilest action possible, then have them do that. I'd say they were pretty flat characters, if they hadn't actually been real.
My issue is, as real as they were, Nazis as the main baddies of a videogame are a case of rather lazy storytelling. With any other group of bad guys, time actually has to be devoted showing them stealing an apple pie from a window ledge or drop-kicking a baby panda down a flight of stairs, in order to establish that they are, indeed, the bad guys. Nazis don't have that problem. It's not like fighting African guerrillas or Russian mercenaries, where you occasionally have to wonder which one out of the two of you is the biggest murderous jerk - Nazis are all evil, all the time. And if your game is set in space in the future, just stick a Nazi helmet on the bad guys and no-one will ask questions. Worked for Killzone 2.
Yes, I get it. Nazis are/were bad. You don't have to keep reiterating that, game industry. The food at McDonalds is pretty bad, too, but I never see you make games about that.