List of controversial video games

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This is a list of video games described explicitly as "controversial" in secondary sources. Some of the video games on this list have been banned or censored.

Table of controversial games[edit]

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Release date Title Platform Developer Reason(s)
1973 Gotcha Arcade Atari It was controversial due to the controls being perceived as pink rubber bulges that were meant to represent breasts and were squeezed in order to control the action.[1]
1976 Death Race Arcade Exidy Violence (running over stickmen "gremlins", who then scream.)[2][3]
1982 Custer's Revenge Atari 2600 Mystique The game depicts a crudely rendered General Custer dodging arrows to reach a naked, native-American woman tied to a pole. For surviving, he was allowed to have sex with her, and points for doing so. This quickly lead to controversy regarding whether he was raping her, or if she participated willingly.[2][4][5]
1984-2009 Punch-Out!! Arcades, NES, SNES, Wii Nintendo, Next Level Games Numerous instances of racial stereotyping, mainly of the opponent fighters that the players fight against. [6][7][8]
1986 177 NEC PC-8801 dB-soft A bishoujo game revolving around rape, it ignited a public furor that reached the National Diet of Japan.[9]
1987 Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior Acorn Electron, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, ZX Spectrum Palace Software The cover art of the game, which featured bikini-clad Maria Whittaker, a model who was then associated with The Sun tabloid's Page Three topless photo shoots and Michael Van Wijk, who was only wearing loincloth, provoked outrage in the United Kingdom. Electron User magazine received letters from readers and religious bodies, who called the image "offensive and particularly insulting to women" and an "ugly pornographic advertisement".[10]Barbarian's violent content was also controversial and was banned in Germany by the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien because of it.[11]
1989 Super Monaco GP Arcade, Mega Drive/Genesis, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Game Gear, Sega Master System, ZX Spectrum Sega Phillip Morris sued Sega (and some other video game companies, including Namco and Atari Games on behalf of their Final Lap game) because the arcade version of the game contains advertisements that resembles those for Marlboro cigarettes.[12][13]
1991 J.B. Harold Murder Club TurboGrafx-16 NEC Sexual themes, including reference to an unsolved rape.[14]
1992 Wolfenstein 3D DOS id Software Violence, gore, Nazi symbolism, and the inclusion of Adolf Hitler as the final boss.[15]
1992–present Mortal Kombat series Arcade Midway (later Warner Bros. Interactive) Blood, violence and gore. First fighter to introduce "Fatalities" to finish off opponents.[2][4][5][16][17][18] When released for home console formats became the first 'big budget' game to raise the issue of violence in the medium. Possible catalyst to the implementation of a rating system.
1992 Night Trap Sega CD Digital Pictures Violence, child abuse and sexual themes.[2][4][16]
1993 Doom PC id Software Intense, first-person violence, gore, and satanic themes.[2][5][16][17] Was once blamed for the Columbine High School Massacre.
1996 SimCopter PC Maxis A programmer named Jacques Servin introduced unauthorized "himbo" characters into the game, who would appear on certain dates and kiss.[19]
1996 Duke Nukem 3D PC, Sega Saturn, PS1 3D Realms Violence, sexual themes, nudity.[20][21]
1996 Tomb Raider PC, Sega Saturn, PS1 Eidos An unauthorized software patch nicknamed 'Nude Raider' was created by fans which allowed players to play as a nude version of Lara Croft (complete with graphic nudity).[22]
1997 Carmageddon PC, Mac, N64, PS1 SCi, Interplay Entertainment Violence against pedestrians[23] and animals.
1997 Postal PC Ripcord Games Violence and Anti-law, most of which is committed against civilians and authorities.[16]
1997–present Grand Theft Auto series PC, PS1, PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360 Rockstar Games Sexual themes, drug use, racism, nudity, language, drunk driving, violence (against civilians and law enforcement officers; in Grand Theft Auto 3, there is also a cheat called 'Extra Gore Mode' in which, if you shoot at someone you can blow off their limbs), criminal behavior. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was originally rated "Mature" in the US, but was re-rated "Adults Only" after controversy surrounding a fanmade Hot Coffee mod which unlocked a hidden sex scene (which was in the game's code, but left out of the final version). It was re-rated "Mature" after Rockstar Games removed this scene from the game's code.[24] Grand Theft Auto IV was referred to as a "terrorist simulator" due to the fact that the city was loosely based on New York City,[2][4][16][25] while Grand Theft Auto V received controversy for the game's final, compulsory torture scene.
1997 Formula 1 97 PC, PS1, Psygnosis The game was withdrawn from shops six weeks after its release due to legal wranglings with the FIA (Formula One's governing body) objecting to the use of the FIA logo on the game's packaging. It was re-released without the offending logo, but the FIA were still unhappy. However, the FIA lost a court case, and the game continued to be sold without the logo.[26]
1998 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, 3DS Nintendo In early versions of the game, the music for the Fire Temple contained chanting from a Muslim prayer found in a library of stock sounds. In version 1.2 and onwards, the chanting was replaced with an entirely unique set, out of fear of offending the Muslim community.[27][28]
1998 Thrill Kill PS1 Paradox Development Thrill Kill is a cancelled and unpublished 1998 fighting video game for the Sony PlayStation. While the technical feat of allowing four players to fight simultaneously in the same room was to be a major selling point, this was overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the game's depictions of violence and sexual content.
1999 Kingpin: Life of Crime PC Interplay Entertainment Violence.[29]
2000 Daikatana PC Ion Storm A highly controversial advertisement regarding John Romero's involvement with the game, which caused a highly publicized outrage.[30]
2001 Conker's Bad Fur Day N64 Rare Controversial for its "over the top" and "lewd" humor.[31]
2002 Ethnic Cleansing PC Resistance Records Racially-motivated violence, white supremacist themes.[32]
2002 Kaboom! Browser fabolous999 Players control a suicide bomber, the aim of the game being to kill as many people as possible.[33]
2002 State of Emergency PC, PS2, Xbox Rockstar Games Contains Columbine-style violence, including political assassinations and coup d'états. Additionally, the game caused controversy in Washington due to the game's similarities to the World Trade Organization riots in Seattle.[34]
2003 Postal II PC Running with Scissors Violence against civilians (including police officers), sexual themes, drug use, racism, language, animal abuse, and references to past and current events of terrorist attacks. Banned in New Zealand, Sweden and Australia.[35]
2003, 2007 Manhunt and Manhunt 2 PS2, Wii, PC Rockstar Games Violence and gore. Manhunt gained significant controversy after it was alleged that the game inspired a teenager to commit a murder. Banned in Australia.

Manhunt 2 has been labeled as possibly the most violent video game ever made and is infamous for being one of only two video games to receive an "Adults-Only rating" due to violence, the other being The Punisher. Further controversy surrounds the Wii version due to the fact that it actually simulates the violence through motion control, dubbing it the name "murder simulator".[4][16][36]

2003 Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball Xbox Tecmo Sexual themes and objectification of women. The game has been criticized as "eye candy", having been created for no other purpose than to display women's breasts and bodies.
2004 The Sims 2 PC EA Games A player-made mod allowed for the blur effect that appears when a character is nude to be removed. However, the nude Sims are featureless.[37]
2004 JFK: Reloaded PC Traffic Software Puts the player in the role of Lee Harvey Oswald as he assassinates U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Criticized for its controversial content matter in recreating the assassination and was condemned by a spokesman for Senator Ted Kennedy as "despicable". [38]
2005 Super Columbine Massacre RPG! PC Danny Ledonne The game simulates the events of the Columbine High School massacre, having the player take on the roles of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and acting out the massacre.[39][40][41][42]
2005 Gun PC, PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, Xbox 360 Activision Offensive depictions of American Indians. Main article, Gun (video game)
2005 The Punisher PC, PS2, Xbox Volition Inc. Interrogation, torture, intense gun fights, drugs, and killing with no mercy. Originally merited an "Adults-Only" rating before being edited on appeal.[43][44][45][46]
2006 Bully Xbox 360, PS2, Wii Rockstar Games Violence, bullying and sex (notably bisexual themes) in a school setting.
2006 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Xbox 360, PC, PS3 Bethesda Softworks Re-rated by the ESRB after a third-party mod revealed a nude topless graphic hidden in the game's data files. While the graphic did not warrant a re-rating of the game in and of itself, upon review, the ESRB noted that the game contained much more explicit violence than had been submitted to them in the original rating submission.[47]
2006 Hitman: Blood Money PC, PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS3 IO Interactive Violence and assassinations; magazine ads for the game featured pictures depicting murder victims.[48]
2006 Mind Quiz Nintendo DS, PSP Ubisoft Recalled in the United Kingdom due to use of the word "spastic", which is considered highly offensive in the UK.[49]
2006 Left Behind: Eternal Forces PC Left Behind Games Accusations that the game promoted religious "convert or kill" violence, sexism and racism.[50][51][52] Some reviewers[53][54][55] denied that the game contained any truly controversial gameplay.
2006 Resistance: Fall of Man PS3 Insomniac Games The Church of England objected to the game's use of Manchester Cathedral's interior as a backdrop during a gun battle, and called for the game to be withdrawn or for the cathedral to be removed from the game.[56]
2006 RapeLay PC Illusion Soft Rape is a core part of the gameplay, as the player takes on the role of a chikan who stalks, and subsequently rapes a mother and her two daughters, at least one of whom is underage. Three years after its initial release, significant controversy was raised in the UK Parliament and elsewhere, and Equality Now eventually pressured its distributor to withdraw distribution of it in Japan.[57]
2006 Rule of Rose PS2 Punchline The mayor of Rome called for the game to be banned from Italy, saying children "have the right to be shielded from violence".[58] The then European Union justice and security commissioner wrote an open letter condemning the game for "obscene cruelty and brutality". An Italian magazine, Panorama, claimed that in order to win the game players must bury a girl alive, which the game's European publisher disputed.[59] On the UK release day, the publisher announced that Rule of Rose would not be published in the UK, despite the game being approved for release by the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) and Video Standards Council regulatory bodies.[60]
2007 BioShock Xbox 360, PC , PS3 2K Games An article in The Patriot Ledger, the local paper of developer Irrational Games,[61] argued that the game is "testing the limits of the ultraviolent gaming genre with a strategy that enables players to kill characters resembling young girls."[62] The game presents an ethical choice to players, whether to kill 'Little Sisters' for extra abilities or save them and receive less. President of 2K Boston Ken Levine defended the game as a piece of art, stating "we want to deal with challenging moral issues and if you want to do that, you have to go to some dark places".[63] Jack Thompson took issue with advertisements for the game appearing during WWE SmackDown's airtime, writing to the Federal Trade Commission and stating that M-rated games should not be advertised when large numbers of under-17s are watching.[64]
2007 Mass Effect PS3, Xbox 360, PC BioWare Falsely accused by evangelical blogger Kevin McCullough of containing "rape and sodomy", which later led to the removal of McCullough's blog entry on Townhall.com. The game was featured on the Fox News Channel following the controversy,[65] with Fox News host Martha MacCallum, which included the headline "full graphic sex".[66] In actuality, the game's most explicit content is an indirect "sideboob" shot of a humanoid alien breast.[67]
2007 Mario Party 8 Wii Nintendo Use of the phrase "Turn the train spastic! Make this ticket tragic!" by the character Kamek caused controversy in the United Kingdom, where the word spastic is considered offensive. This led to a recall of the game; it was later re-released with the word changed to erratic.[68]
2008 Muslim Massacre: The Game of Modern Religious Genocide PC Eric 'Sigvatr' Vaughn The game's contents and subject have been the subject of strong negative response; a spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain said "The makers of this 'game' and the ISPs [Internet service providers] who are hosting it should be quite ashamed of themselves. Anti-Muslim prejudice is already on the increase and needs to be challenged and not reinforced through tasteless and offensive stunts like this."[69]
2008 Invaders! Douglas Edric Stanley An art game exhibited at the 2008 Games Convention in Leipzig. It represents the September 11 attacks in the style of Space Invaders. Players move their bodies to move the cannon and use arm movements to fire.[70] Like the original Space Invaders, death (game over) is inevitable.[71] Many people considered it tasteless and inappropriate, and Taito threatened legal action for unauthorized use of Space Invaders content.[72] The creator later pulled the game.[72]
2008 Silent Hill: Homecoming PS3, PC, Xbox 360 Double Helix Games Was banned and refused to get a rating in Australia and Germany for extreme violence and disturbing images which included copious blood spray in the game, decapitations, partially dismembered corpses, and numerous scenes of attacks, fights, torture, and death."[73]
2008 LittleBigPlanet PS3 Media Molecule Lyrics from a licensed song, "Tapha Niang", were removed due to fears that Muslims would be offended as it allegedly contained words from the Quran. This led to controversy about the removal itself.[74]
2008 Too Human Xbox 360 Silicon Knights The game was revealed to developed using a stolen version of Unreal Engine 3, following a successful counter-suit by Epic Games (makers of the Unreal Engine), Silicon Knights having initially sued Epic Games for "breach of contract".[75][76] In November 2012, the counter-suit were ruled in favor of Epic Games, forcing Silicon Knights to recall and destroy all copies of the game and another Unreal Engine-developed game, X-Men: Destiny, as well as cancelling other titles that had been planned to use the engine.[77][78]
2009 MadWorld Wii Platinum Games The game's extreme, over-the-top violence has led to much criticism, and has been described by the Daily Mail as the "most violent video game ever". Also, the Nintendo Wii has been long-perceived as little more than a "family-friendly" console, and as a result, many parental organizations have condemned the game's release exclusively on the Wii.[79]
2009 Resident Evil 5 PS3, Xbox 360, PC Capcom For a pre-release trailer that contains scenes of racism,[80] according to Newsweek journalist N'Gai Croal in an April 2008 interview. He also stated that organizations and retailers would object to the game and that it would cause controversy on release.[80]
2009 Saw PS3, Xbox 360, PC Konami Several news publishings stated that the game's only purpose was to torture and kill people in violent ways with no sense of restraint or morality. Some editorials called it "depraved and inhumane" and stated that "Konami should be ashamed".[81] It was also listed in the "Top ten most controversial games of 2009".[82]
2009 Left 4 Dead 2 Xbox 360, PC (Steam) Valve Corporation The cover art in the UK had to be altered due to a potentially offensive hand gesture being depicted.[83] The game was banned in Australia for its excessive violence and gore.[84] The game's New Orleans setting so soon after Hurricane Katrina was considered "a bad call".[85]
2009 Fat Princess PlayStation 3
PlayStation Portable
Titan Studios Feminists argued that the game concept and title was hostile to women.[86]
2009 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Infinity Ward A optional level in the game entitled "No Russian" has the player assume control of a deep cover Central Intelligence Agency agent, joining a group of Russian nationalist terrorists in enacting an airport massacre. The player is given the option to skip the level at any point.[87][88] The game was discussed briefly in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom after the issue was brought to the attention of MP Keith Vaz, a longtime opponent of violence in video games, with fellow Labour Party politician Tom Watson arguing that the level was "no worse than scenes in many films and books" and criticising Vaz for "collaborating with the Daily Mail to create moral panic over the use of video games".[89] The mission was made optional before release[90] and removed from the game entirely.[91]

Activision later removed the Favela multiplayer map from Modern Warfare 2 following complaints from Muslim gamers, which shows picture frames on the second floor bathroom of one building within Favela. When viewed through a scoped weapon, the frames contain a quote from the Prophet Muhammad that translates to "Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty", according to Islam Today. One of the paintings is located directly above a toilet.[92]

2010 Medal of Honor PS3, Xbox 360, PC Danger Close Games, EA Digital Illusions CE The multiplayer mode created controversy when it was revealed that players could play as the Taliban.[93] The developers responded by stating the reality of the game necessitated it, but due to pressure from various military officials and veterans organizations, the word Taliban was removed from the multiplayer part of the game in which players would directly play as the Taliban, instead replaced with the term "Opposing Force." However, even in light of this change, the game is still not to be sold on military bases. The AAFES Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce Casella said, "Out of respect to those touched by the ongoing, real-life events presented as a game, Exchanges will not be carrying this product." He continued, "I expect the military families who are authorized to shop the Exchange are aware, and understanding, of the decision not to carry this particular offering."[94][95]
2010 Six Days in Fallujah PS3, Xbox 360, PC Atomic Games The game was opposed by both the public and critics alike for "glamorizing" and "glossing over" the real-life Second Battle of Fallujah. This caused the former publisher, Konami, to oppose the game and stop publishing it.[96]
2011 Bulletstorm PS3, Xbox 360, PC Electronic Arts Fox News Channel called out the title as the "Worst Video Game in the World" due to the extreme amount of violence; claims made in the original article were dispelled by video game journalists including Rock Paper Shotgun, but Fox News continues to assert the game as too violent.[97]
2011 Portal 2 PS3, Xbox 360, PC Valve CBS News has deemed the game offensive to adopted children because Wheatley insults the protagonist by saying "Fatty fatty no parents". The daughter of the parents who reported this is in fact, adopted.[98]
2011 Call of Juarez: The Cartel PS3, Xbox 360, PC Ubisoft Residents of Ciudad Juárez and Mexico protested the announcement of the game, believing it to highlight the Juárez Cartel, who are believed responsible for over 3000 homicides in the city in 2010.[99]
2011 Dead Island PS3, Xbox 360, PC Deep Silver After a development build of the game was released on Steam by mistake, it was revealed that the skill 'Gender Wars' (which the character Purna uses) was called 'FeministWhorePurna' within the game's code. Developer Deep Silver apologised and released a patch for the game to replace the offensive name.[100]
2012 Medal of Honor: Warfighter PS3, Xbox 360, PC Danger Close Games Seven members of Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) who worked as consultants for the game were disciplined for releasing classified information to the game's creators.[101][102]
2012 Street Fighter X Tekken PS3, Xbox 360, PC, iOS, PlayStation Vita Capcom, Dimps It was revealed that the game's downloadable characters were already on the disc in a ready-to-unlock form, leading to heavy criticism.[103][104]
2013 Tomb Raider PS3, Xbox 360, PC Crystal Dynamics During an interview with Kotaku, executive producer Ron Rosenberg stated that one scene in the game depicts Lara Croft about to be sexually assaulted by a scavenger. She is forced to fight back and kill him in return. Prior to the game's release, this quickly led to controversy concerning the possible 'attempted rape' sequence. Studio manager Darrell Gallagher later denied this, stating that one of "the character defining moments for Lara in the game, which has incorrectly been referred to as an 'attempted rape' scene is the content we showed" where "Lara is forced to kill another human for the first time. In this particular selection, while there is a threatening undertone in the sequence and surrounding drama, it never goes any further than the scenes that we have already shown publicly. Sexual assault of any kind is categorically not a theme that we cover in this game."[105][106]
2013 Saints Row IV Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC Volition Inc. Despite changes in the Australian Classification Board to adopt rules to classify mature video games in January 2013, Saints Row IV was the first video game under these new rules to be denied classification, due to the presence of drug use and an in-game alien anal probe weapon.[107] Volition eliminated these elements from the game to obtain a MA15+ rating by removing the mission these elements were used in,[108] rendering the game's co-operative mode incompatible with versions from other countries.[109]
2013 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number PC Dennaton Games The sequel, like the first Hotline Miami, incorporates a large amount of violence as the player sets to kill off agents of the local mafia, but a preview build for the sequel includes a scene that is set up where the player's character then appears to rape a female antagonist, though this is later presented in the context of being part of a staged movie scene. Journalists felt that even though the game made it clear of the scene's setup, the inclusion of this scene went too far in taste levels.[110]
2013 The Stanley Parable PC Galactic Cafe An in-game instructional video called "Choice" contained an image of a white man lighting a black child on fire.[111]
2014 South Park: The Stick of Truth Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC Obsidian Entertainment
South Park Digital Studios
The game was censored in Europe and Australia due to its depiction of an anal probing by aliens and the player-character performing an abortion. In their place, the game displays a still image of a statue holding its face in its hand, with an explicit description of events depicted in the scene. The German version was specifically censored because of the use of Nazi- and Hitler-related imagery, including swastikas and Nazi salutes, which are illegal in that country.[112]

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