Then and now: The changing faces of Wolfenstein's BJ Blazkowicz and other gaming greats

Bethesda's Wolfenstein: The New Order has been wowing critics and gamers alike since its release this week. It also represents another return to a well-loved franchise or character on new generation hardware, something the games industry has not been shy of in the past and will most likely continue to explore until the cows come home.

Familiar videogames legends are, therefore, great test subjects if you want to see how far gaming has come in the last 20-30 years and,inspired by a tweet from Jeff Atwood (@codinghorror), we look at five of the biggest names in games to see what they were like back then and now.

You might want to take off your rose-tinted glasses and put them away for ever.

Wolfenstein 3D (1992) vs Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014)

Character: William "BJ" Blazkowicz

Although the first Wolfenstein game was a 2D shooter - Castle Wolfenstein, released in 1981 - Wolfenstein 3D marked the first appearance of on-going lead character "BJ" Blazkowicz. It was also remarkable in that it effectively created the first-person shooter genre, with id Software going on to create Doom soon after.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Wolfenstein 3D was released on PC first, in MS-DOS, which has proven to be the longest running games format of them all.

READ: Wolfenstein: The New Order review

Halo: Combat Evolved (2001) vs Halo 5: Guardians (2015)

Character: Master Chief

It feels like the Halo series of games have been around for longer than 13 years (14 when Halo 5 is released), but that's testament to its staying power and the amount of titles in the franchise that have been released in the duration.

There have been many other characters, but Master Chief is the top dog and although his basic suit design hasn't changed much over the years, the difference in graphical power between the first Xbox and the Xbox One is mammoth.

READ: Halo 5: Guardians release date and details revealed, coming to Xbox One in 2015

Tomb Raider (1996) vs Tomb Raider (2013)

Character: Lara Croft

British action heroine Lara Croft was a blocky wee lassy back in the mid-90s, but still caused controversy at the time with the developers favouring fairly close-up shots of her behind as the game default.

Her bosom also seemed perhaps too ample for some, with original publisher Core Design receiving numerous complaints. It all seems silly now, considering the angular nature of the first game's graphics. But current developer Crystal Dynamics did make it a point to reduce the body dimensions of Croft for the recent reboot.

READ: Tomb Raider (2013) review

Donkey Kong (1981) vs Super Mario 3D World (2013)

Character: Mario (Jumpman)

Originally named Jumpman, Mario was the hero of the much-loved and much-cloned arcade game Donkey Kong. He had blue hair back then, but while only a few pixels, his image was still similar to the version we all know and love today.

The character had his 30th birthday anniversary last year as his first official appearance as "Mario" was in the platform game Mario Bros, which appeared in 1983. And Nintendo has never really looked back, as each subsequent appearance has been awaited with baited breath by games fans ever since.

READ: Super Mario 3D World review

The Legend of Zelda (1986) vs The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (2013)

Character: Link

Small, elf-like hero Link first appeared in The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. The game was a top-down 2D RPG/action-adventure and it set the tone for all Zelda games since.

The most recent appearance was actually a remake of a game originally released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002/03, another console that was considered a flop. There are still plenty though who are eagerly-awaiting news of a dedicated new Zelda game for the Wii U. Perhaps it will be announced and shown at E3 in Los Angeles in June?

READ: E3 2014 press conferences: When, where and what to expect