Biblical Action: Super Noah’s Ark 3D

By Alice O'Connor on July 21st, 2014 at 11:00 am.

He's HELPING the animals.

I’m fascinated by attempts to remove violence from first-person shooters. One Wolfenstein 3D mod replaces enemies with giant coloured marbles and turns hanging skeletons to hanging pot plants, yet leaves in all the Nazi symbolism “in order to keep the original ‘spirit’ of the game.” That is, I think, a serious attempt at de-violenceing. More jokey is Happy Doom, where “you are a little boy who has a basket of flowers” and give them to “cloud people” to make them happy and sleep.

Super 3D Noah’s Ark, a game I never knew existed, was wholly serious. It’s essentially Wolfenstein 3D, and built on the Wolf3D engine, but with Noah running around the Ark, ‘feeding escaped animals’ using high-powered catapults. And now it’s been re-released.

It’s a simple premise: the animals have escaped their pens, and they’re hungry. So poor old Noah has to roam the levels of the Ark, feeding hordes of goats, ostriches, and ‘bosses’ like a bear until they’re sated and lie down for a snooze. He’ll be fine: he’s armed with elaborate feeding devices, multi-banded slingshots and mechanised doodads flinging pellets and coconuts at animals’ faces as they try to kill him. Scrolls scattered about pose biblical questions to players too.

Which may all sound like a parody but nope, it’s quite serious. Self-described Christian developer Wisdom Tree first released it on SNES in 1994, then for DOS a year later. A new version arrived this May, updated to support modern resolutions and operating systems. It’s up on itch.io for $4.99. Wisdom Tree are now having a crack at Steam Greenlight.

“Put aside your prejudices, this game is not about forcing religion,” they say. “The quiz merely covers the story of Noah’s Ark and never penalizes the player.”

It’s fascinating: trying to defang a violent game with friendlier graphics and a Christian message. We may instantly recognise the killing it’s built upon, 20 years later when FPSs still follow the same basic presentation of Wolf 3D, but would everyone in 1994 spot it so easily?

In a sort of “oh no will people assume I’m posting this mockingly?” agnostic’s panic, look, here are our token Christian John’s thoughts on the RTS series Left Behind wedging in Christian ideals. And here’s a video of Noah definitely helping animals, feeding them and making them very happy and absolutely not shooting them:

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55 Comments »

  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    Hope Steam does not get flooded with this sort of thing.

  2. Frank says:

    Among the nonviolent FPS attempts, don’t forget TF2′s Pyrovision!

    • hotmaildidntwork says:

      Holy shit, he’s right. By these metrics TF2 may be one of the least violent games ever produced!

  3. PsychoWedge says:

    I actually new about this. It’s not a game officially using the wolfenstein engine but it very clearly does. Legend says id gave the sourcecode to the developers as a little dig at Nintendo for forcing them to censor the SNES version of Wolfenstein into something almost unrecognisable.

    • BrandeX says:

      ???

      Id has always released their older game engine as open source code for other developers to use.
      https://github.com/id-Software

      • Janichsan says:

        Yes, but in this case, they did before the open source release.

        • BrandeX says:

          This is a new game being offered.

          Also included with the game, is the original “mod” via dosbox.

          • Janichsan says:

            Are you just confusing yourself?

            PsychoWedge is talking about the original 1994 version of the game, published *before* id released the Wolfenstein 3D source code in 1995. So that original cannot be based on the open source version.

            The new release is in fact derived from the open source code – but this is not what PsychoWedge is talking about.

  4. Premium User Badge LTK says:

    Someone must have had really high regard for Wolfenstein 3D to decide to mod it into a ‘nonviolent’ Biblical game.

  5. Zekiel says:

    That is… quite something.

  6. the_aborted says:

    Someone needs to patch this so you can brutally murder the animals and called it

    “NO! ARGH!!! The rampage.”

  7. Low Life says:

    I’d only seen a video of the game before and I had no idea he was “feeding” the animals.

    • Quinnbeast says:

      You just weren’t paying attention in history class. Smashing food into a Llama’s face with a high powered catapult was the norm, back in the day.

  8. girard says:

    Sidenote: As Wisdom Tree games were not officially licensed to play on Nintendo hardware (in addition to being a cheap company, they’d inevitably have run afoul of Nintendo’s censorship policies w/r/t religious content), the SNES cartridge for Super Noah’s Ark 3D did not have the proprietary DRM chip a cart needed to play in the SNES, and instead was equipped with a “Game Genie” style cart receiver on its top. In order to play the game, one had to first put in Super Noah’s Ark, then put in another SNES game into the top of THAT cart, and the DRM check would pass through Super Noah’s Ark and use the other cartridge’s chip to allow play.

    • ansionnach says:

      Since this was the only unofficial SNES game released it had become a collector’s item. The cartridge was re-printed earlier this year, priced at $64, in an obvious cash-in. The Steam release doesn’t really make sense from a collector’s point of view, I guess it’s more of a novelty purchase. There are cheaper PC alternatives in the “fun for ten minutes” bracket, though!

      For more, there was an article by Eurogamer on the SNES release back in January.

  9. Ross Angus says:

    Those sound effects are all kinds of adorable.

  10. Ajmist says:

    Wait a minute isn’t Noah Ark the story where almost the entire human race is drowned on purpose. Wolfenstein was far less violent no genocide, murder of children, or mass drowning of animals.

    • twaitsfan says:

      As well said as one can well say.

    • JFS says:

      But no shooting and/or Nazis! So it’s okay.

    • Pippy says:

      This removal of violence is blasphemy against the original work, a notorious bloodbath.I guess that kinda goes for Wolfenstein too.

    • funzportz says:

      One could in fact argue, that shooting Nazi soldiers with the goal of ultimately assasinating Hitler himself is morallybetter, than colaborating with a god to drown all life on earth.

  11. Premium User Badge Oozo says:

    Fun fact: There was also a platformer on the NES called Noah’s Ark, which I remember being decent enough. (Well, Noah could turn into a fish and a concrete version of himself. Also, shoot. That’s all I wanted from a game when I was 7.) Contrary to most games with a biblical content, this one was even published by Konami and officially approved by Nintendo.

    Since I’m not a native English speaker, I somehow didn’t get that the title of the game is just taken from the Bible (even though I was, of course, familiar with the story itself). So, naturally, I thought that Super Noah’s Ark was the 16-bit sequel to this game. Imagine my surprise and deception.

    • roguewombat says:

      Wisdom Tree also had a play-three cartridge that included a Noah’s Ark “find the animals and hoist them over your head to cart them back to the ship” game. It included a game where Mary and Joseph run across rooftops in search of a missing boy Jesus and where the Wise Men on super camels chase after the star over Bethlehem. Not gonna lie… played that sucker to completion multiple times. : P

    • Michael Fogg says:

      It was a subject of a memorable episode of the Angry Nintendo Nerd.

  12. Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

    Do you remember when Jesus gibbed the five thousand?

    EDIT: Also amusing to have pictures of Darwin everywhere on the ship.

  13. Premium User Badge jezcentral says:

    So there were more than two of every animal. I knew there was something about this game that didn’t quite jibe with the source material.

    • paddymaxson says:

      There were 7 of all clean animals and 2 of unclean animals

  14. roguewombat says:

    What Wisdom Tree did with the Zelda concept was even more impressive – check out Spiritual Warfare for the NES. You hurl the “fruit of the Spirit” at unbelievers to convert them as you wander a city to collect the armor of God and ultimately find and defeat Satan. (And there are bombs… or exploding vials of holy water.) I was about [ ] this close to winning 20 years ago when my little sister tripped over the cable and reset the machine. Demoralized, I left Satan to wreak havoc on the city and went back to Faxanadu.

  15. Berzee says:

    I still think Onesimus wins the award for weirdest Bible-based old game. Apparently it uses the engine from a Jill of the Jungle game, and is about a satisfyingly minor Bible character…I never got to play it though because when we bought it from the Family Christian Bookstore and took it home, there was no floppy disk in the box! Presumably someone shoplifted it, perhaps alongside a roll of Testamints (the breath freshener with a Bible verse on the side of the wrapper!). >_<

    In more modern times, THE AXYS ADVENTURES: TRUTH SEEKER: BATTLE AGAINST THE LIES is also a thing. I’m kind of sad that the next game from the Axys devs (in which you would play as Enoch, adventuring around a pre-flood Earth and ultimately helping Adam bounce back from his ruining-of-everything escapades) has never yet appeared.

    • Acorino says:

      Onesimus, yes, I actually played this one!
      I don’t know why and how I got it, except that I remember my father saying that we would need at least a 15” monitor for it? I think it was part of a game compilation that a friend had and was bought from a discounter, maybe? Gosh, fuzzy memory…
      …anyway, I completed it. I think you had to complete it in one sitting? You could save, but I think the saves were gone as soon as you quit the game. The game had so many quirks.
      I remember the ending, the person you were looking for approaching you like any other enemy in the game and me wondering “what? will he attack me or what?” and just about before he would the game cuts to a cutscene, lol. I guess they couldn’t figure out how to make the NPCs in the game non-threatening.
      Even at the time I didn’t think it was very good, but there was something endearing about it. I certainly have a soft spot for it in my heart. :)

  16. stoner says:

    The story of Noah is not Christian; it’s Jewish. It’s in the Torah.

    • Ajmist says:

      I’d disagree its in the Bible and the Qur’an making it a story shared by all three religions. Besides it almost exactly the same story as in the Epic of Gilgamesh making it Mesopotamian if you care who wrote it down 1st.

      • Acorino says:

        Yes, I was surprised when I was suddenly confronted with a variation of the Noah’s ark story at the end of Gilgamesh. Didn’t expect that!

        • Baines says:

          Christianity appropriated various existing myths and beliefs.

  17. Baggypants says:

    “We may instantly recognise the killing it’s built upon, 20 years later when FPSs still follow the same basic presentation of Wolf 3D, but would everyone in 1994 spot it so easily?”

    Yes.oh so very yes. It was still on sale in Wesley Owen in 1996 and was the butt of jokes at our Christian Union for months, We all played Doom 2 and GTA

  18. Turkey says:

    Is it just me or is the super-slingshot kinda satanic looking?

  19. somnolentsurfer says:

    Shouldn’t there only be two of each kind of those animals?

  20. hypocritelecteur says:

    HOW CAN YOU CALL THIS HERETICAL ABOMINATION CHRISTIAN? THERE WERE TWO OF EVERY ANIMAL. TWO.

    TEACHING CHILDREN THESE LIES IS SICKENING.

    • Baggypants says:

      Two of every unclean animal, seven of every clean one. YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM. YOU SICKEN ME.

  21. barney says:

    Thou shalt take 2 million of every animal except bosses

  22. green frog says:

    This is the best thing I’ve seen all day. Thanks Alice.

  23. hotmaildidntwork says:

    Wait, is “Wisdom Tree” a reference to the tree in the garden of eden? The one whose produce you weren’t supposed to consume? Because that would seem like an odd name for a company.

  24. Premium User Badge particlese says:

    I highly recommend “Exodus”, also by Wisdom Tree: You shoot things with the Word of God until they explode, you lay down exploding staves, you start massive, satisfying chain reactions of exploding golden calves of sin, and you collect upgrades for your weapons throughout each level. You also have to find 5 bibles in each level to unlock the portal/door to the next level, and there was “mana” to collect (which was totally just jugs of milk) to unlock Bible quiz questions to gain extra lives. The levels can be long and are filled with puzzley Bolderdash-style action, and the loads of enemies and explosions can make for some pretty tense moments. The only other biblical stuff I remember besides the quizzes and the whole “you are Moses MacSplosion” thing was the highly-repetitive 8-bit Sunday School music which somehow didn’t irritate as we played for hours.

    The game was super fun and became wicked hard later on, but that was okay because you could warp to regular intervals of the ~100 (?) levels straight out of the box.