List of banned video games

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This is a list of video games that had been censored or banned by governments of various states in the world. Governments have been criticized for banning games for many reasons, including, but not limited to; bans that increase piracy, inhibit business opportunities, violate rights,[1][2][3] and are widely available for purchase or download.[4] This list is not exhaustive in total, nor is it exhaustive for any country mentioned in particular.

Argentina[edit]

Name Reason
RapeLay Banned because the object of the game is to stalk and rape a woman and her two daughters, at least one of whom appears to be underage.[5][6][7][8][9]

Australia[edit]

Brazil[edit]

Brazil has banned many video games since 1999, mainly due to violence and depictions of cruelty.[10] It is illegal to distribute and sell these games, but it is still legal to own a copy.[11][12]

Name Reason
Bully Banned for showing violence and harassment in a school setting. The ban was lifted on 06/23/2016; game can now be acquired in physical and non-physical format through Steam.[13]
Counter-Strike Banned because of violence and simulating the favela map in 2008. The ban was later lifted and game is now available for sale.[14][15]
EverQuest Banned because of Australia's X18+ references.[14][16]
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City Banned because it uses music by the Brazilian composer Hamilton da Silva Lourenço without proper permissions.[17]

Additionally, the Brazil's Department of Justice, Rating, Titles and Qualification requires that all video games be rated by the organization. Unrated titles are de facto banned from being sold in Brazil.

China[edit]

A very large number of video games are banned in the People's Republic of China. Games that contain drugs, sexual themes, blood, depictions of organized crime or the defaming of the Chinese government are almost always banned from sale. Because of the large size of the Chinese video game market, many studios will edit the content of their games to conform to the government's standards.

Home gaming consoles were banned in mainland China from June 2000[18][19] until 2013, when said ban was lifted, it allowed the next-generation consoles the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in the country.[20]

Notable games banned in that region are:

Name Reason
Battlefield 4 Banned due to the discrediting of China's national image as well as a threat to national security, in which the Chinese Ministry claims that the game shows it a "cultural invasion." [21]
Command & Conquer Generals Banned for "smearing the image of China and the Chinese army" although the game presents China as a quasi-protagonist, as well as glorifying the People's Liberation Army.[22] Additionally, the China campaign has the player destroy questionable targets such as the Three Gorges Dam and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in order to snuff out an invading terrorist organization.
Football Manager 2005 Banned for recognizing Taiwan and Tibet as an independent country. An edited version was later released globally.[23]
Hearts of Iron Banned for portraying Tibet, Sinkiang, and Manchuria as independent countries and Taiwan as under Japanese control.[22]
I.G.I.-2: Covert Strike Banned because of "intentionally blackening China and the Chinese army's image."[24]

Cuba[edit]

No video games have ever been banned in Cuba, but few games were sold in that country until 2007 when restrictions were eased. In 2010, the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops gained much controversy as there is a mission where the player attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, only to end up killing a double.[25]

Denmark[edit]

EA Sports MMA was not released in Denmark because of a law prohibiting marketing for energy drinks, which EA chose not to remove from the game.[26]

Germany[edit]

A video game can be banned in Germany if it has been confiscated by court order because it violates a section of the Strafgesetzbuch (criminal code). Private possession (and thus playing it) and acquisition (such as downloading a demo from the Internet) is still legal, but any dissemination is not. The seller would break the law if a sale took place, not the buyer. On December 10, 2002, however, one German court (Oberlandesgericht Hamm) decided that a single sale of a single copy does not qualify as dissemination.[27] Unlike indexing by the BPjM, which restricts the sale of all content-equal versions, the versions that are confiscated are enumerated in the court order. Being put on the index by the BPjM or, since April 1, 2003, being refused a rating by the USK does not equal a ban. Rather, it imposes strict trade restrictions on the title. While only very few games have been confiscated, the list of indexed games is very long.[28]

In December 2006, Bavaria and Lower Saxony proposed legislation, to be presented to the national parliament, that would make even playing any game that feature "cruel violence on humans or human-looking characters" an offence punishable with fines or jail time of up to 12 months.[29][30][31]

§ 86a outlaws the use of symbols of unconstitutional organisations, § 130 Volksverhetzung (agitation of the people), and § 131 instructions for crimes. In the official lists, these three sections are always bundled, so any game that contains swastika flags and/or any depiction of Adolf Hitler is listed alongside racist propaganda pieces.

§ 131 outlaws representation of excessive violence in media "which describe cruel or otherwise inhuman acts of violence against human or humanoid beings in a manner which expresses a glorification or rendering harmless of such acts of violence or which represents the cruel or inhuman aspects of the event in a manner which injures human dignity."[32]

§ 130 and § 131 make it to a criminal offence to do following with corresponding scriptures:

  1. distributing / selling
  2. issuing in public, demonstrating or otherwise making available
  3. leaving it to a person under the age of 18
  4. producing, buying, delivering, storing, offering, announcing, praising, importing or exporting to use them within the meaning of the letters 1 to 3.

This means, that the import or purchase and the possession for personal use are still legal for persons over 18 years.

In the case of video games that contain pornography with children or minors, where a real or realistic event is depicted, the possession of the video game or working towards possessing it would be illegal under § 184b or §184c StGB. Otherwise, if the work depicts a fictitious event, the distribution of such material is illegal.

In August 2008, Sega confirmed that The House of the Dead: Overkill and MadWorld would not be released in Germany,[33] due to the likelihood that they would be refused to get a rating by the USK.[34] Sega also announced in November 2009 that they would not distribute Aliens vs. Predator for similar reasons.[35]

A "Beschlagnahmung" (ban) is enforced for a minimum of ten years, after which a request for review may be submitted.[36]

Greece[edit]

See also: Law 3037/2002

No known games have been banned in Greece. A law banning all electronic games in public places was passed in 2002, but eventually disregarded.[37][38][39]

Iran[edit]

Main article: Censorship in Iran

Iran typically bans any game that contains violence, depicts cruelty, features strong sexual content, nudity, and a negative portrayal of the Middle East. Battlefield 3 was banned because of a fictional U.S. invasion on Tehran. Already prior to the ban, many retail stores were removing copies of the said game from their shelves.[40]

Pokemon GO was banned due to security reasons.

Republic of Ireland[edit]

The IFCO rarely rates video games, and leaves decisions to PEGI and BBFC. Manhunt 2 was banned for "gross, unrelenting, and gratuitous violence."[41]

Italy[edit]

In 2007, following the decision of the governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Minister of Communications Paolo Gentiloni publicly expressed the desire to block the distribution of Manhunt 2 in Italy, due to the gratuitous violence and excessive cruelty of the video game, but the censorship was never put into practice.[42]

Japan[edit]

Main article: Video gaming in Japan

Video games are rarely banned in Japan, and it holds the place as one of the top video game producers in the world.[43] However, Fallout 3 was edited in Japan due to two reasons: A quest named "The Power of the Atom" which gave you the choice to nuke a city named Megaton, which caused part of the quest to be removed, and a weapon in the game called the Fat Man. Because of its relation to the real historic event, the weapon was renamed to the Nuka Launcher in the Japanese version of Fallout 3.[44] Japan's Spike removed all references to Kim Jong-il and North Korea in Homefront, as well.[45] Resident Evil 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Bulletstorm, Gears of War 3, Dead Island and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance were edited for excessive violence.

Malaysia[edit]

Malaysia tends to ban offensive content such as extreme impact violence, depictions of cruelty, any content not considered anti-Muslim, sexual content and nudity. In August 2008, after the Grand Theft Auto series ban in Thailand (see below), head of a Malaysian consumer rights organization, Muhammad Idris, called for the ban of Grand Theft Auto series entirely and every other similarly violent video games such as Manhunt series and Mortal Kombat.[46][47] In February 2010, one week after Dante's Inferno released, the game was banned by Jabatan Agama Islam [JAIS] in Malaysia for offensive depictions of cruelty, hellish visions, sexuality and content that was against Sharia.[citation needed]

In 2016 with the following release, Pokemon Go was not banned by the Federal Territory for Muslims for promoting the search for power which leads to gambling and safety issues that was caused by playing the game.

Mexico[edit]

Though no video games have ever been nationally banned, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 was banned in the state of Chihuahua due to Mexican Rebels being depicted as antagonists and stereotyping the city of Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez.[48] However, the game can still be found in shelves in other states.

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, games are classified by the country's Office of Film and Literature Classification. If they are dubbed "objectionable" in all cases, then they are considered banned. In this case, the game in question is not only illegal to sell, but illegal to own, possess, or import. Games are typically banned and classified as "objectionable content" when they contain extreme violence, offensive depictions of cruelty, animal cruelty, sexual content involving children, or graphic depictions of sexual content, including sexual fetishes that are "offensive & abhorrent" (depictions of urination, bestiality, necrophilia, urophilia, coprophilia, and/or incest.)

[52]

Name Reason
Manhunt Banned because of graphic scary violence and depictions of cruelty.[49]
Postal 2 Banned because of graphic gory violence and offending cruelty.[50]
Reservoir Dogs Banned because it "tends to promote and support the infliction of extreme violence and extreme cruelty for the purpose of entertainment."[51]
Three Sisters' Story Banned because it "tends to promote and support the use of violence to compel a person to submit to sexual conduct, and the exploitation of young persons for sexual purposes."[citation needed]

Pakistan[edit]

Name Danis
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Banned for portraying Pakistanis negatively.[53]
Medal of Honor: Warfighter Banned for portraying Pakistanis negatively.[53]

Philippines[edit]

In 1981, a presidential decree issued by Ferdinand Marcos outlawed the use and distribution[54] of all video game consoles, arcade games and pinball machines, deeming them as a "destructive social enemy"[55] and "to the detriment of the public interest".[56][57] Despite the law being technically in effect following the EDSA Revolution, it has since been disregarded and unenforced.

While no video games are banned nationwide so far since 1986, at least one title, Defense of the Ancients, has been banned at a barangay in Dasmariñas, Cavite following complaints of delinquency issues, and two murder incidents involving youths in the area resulting from brawls in relation to the game.[58]

Russia[edit]

In Russia, games are classified by the "On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development" Federal Law. No known games have been banned in Russia due to excessive violence, nudity, negative portrayal of people of Russia or expression of religious views of any kind because of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution of Russia. Media in the United States and Europe have incorrectly reported that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which features a storyline in which Russian "ultranationalists" take control of the country and invade the United States, was banned in Russia. Activision called these reports 'erroneous'.[59]

Singapore[edit]

Singapore rarely bans games. With the implementation of the Video Game Classification in 2008 by the Media Development Authority, most games are widely available for purchase to their respective age group, such as those containing full frontal nudity or strong graphic violence under an "M18" rating. Games that were previously banned such as Mass Effect were re-rated either "Age Advisory" or "M18" after the implementation of the classification system.

Name Reason
Half-Life Banned because of violence.[60] The ban was met with uproar as the local gaming community and retailers scrambled to start petitions to save the game. The government decided to lift the ban after a week as the game had been released for more than a year and the ban will impact the local LAN gaming and retail market.[61]
Mass Effect Banned because of a homosexual encounter between a feminine alien and female human.[62] The ban was later lifted and the title re-rated M18.[63]
The Darkness Banned because of excessive violence.[64] The ban was later lifted and the title re-rated M18.

South Korea[edit]

Since 2006, South Korea offers complete freedom in publishing games, fully respecting freedom of expression and speech. Even before this, games were very rarely banned unless that game mentioned elements of the Korean War in order to avoid tensions between the North Korea and South Korea. However, Manhunt, Manhunt 2, and Mortal Kombat are still banned because of violence and cruelty. Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction were previously banned but later lifted.[65]

The Game Rating Board requires that all video games be rated by the organization. Unrated titles are de facto banned from being sold in the country, and websites selling them can be blocked.

Name Reason
Mortal Kombat (2011) Banned because of excessive violence and cruelty.[66]
Homefront Banned to prevent trouble from North Korea.[66]

Thailand[edit]

Thailand will typically ban any games with excessive violence, and sexual content, such as many eroge from Japan, with the same reasons as banning any pornographic films.

Additionally, all video game titles of the Grand Theft Auto series have been banned in Thailand completely since August 2008[67] because of an 18-year-old Thai player influenced by Grand Theft Auto who killed a taxi driver from Bangkok.[68]

United Arab Emirates[edit]

In the United Arab Emirates, a branch of the government called the National Media Council (NMC) works to control the media and entertainment industry in the country, and they have the authority to issue bans on any specific media products, including video games, to comply with the country's legal and cultural values. The NMC do not usually explicitly state their actual consensus for any kind of issued ban on a product, so official reasons behind their bans remain unclear. However, bans issued by the NMC apply only to the sale of those products through local outlets; they do not make private ownership illegal. There are certain exceptions, notably for Spec Ops: The Line (see below). Some banned games may be available and sold in the nation's grey market.[citation needed]

The following (incomplete list of) titles are banned from mainstream physical retail circulations.

Name Reason
BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Banned likely due to suggestive and revealing outfits on some characters.[69] The ban did not extend to digital versions of the game however.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Banned possibly due to violence against Muslims. The ban has since been lifted.[citation needed]
Darksiders Banned likely due to contradicting with customs and traditions.[70] The ban did not extend to the digital version of the game however. Its sequel, Darksiders II, which features similar themes, was released without issues however, and even had a localised print release for the PlayStation 3 version.
Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide Both banned likely due to "extreme depictions of violence and scantily-clad game characters."[71] The ban did not extend to digital versions of the games however.
Dead Rising 2 Banned likely due to violence, gambling, and nudity.[72] The ban has since been lifted for newer prints of the game.
Dragon Age: Origins Banned likely due to sexual themes, including having possible homosexual relationships.[73] The ban has since been lifted for the digital versions of the game.
Fallout: New Vegas Banned likely due to gambling and sexual themes.[74] Ban did not extend to the digital version of the game however.
The Godfather II Banned likely due to nudity.[75]
God of War series Banned due to the word "God" in title and depiction of Greek deities in the game.[citation needed]
Grand Theft Auto series Banned likely due to violence, cruelty and sexual content. For reasons unknown, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had since been made available via Steam ever since the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V was launched, which itself is openly available on Steam from the debut. Shortly after Steam introduced the dirham as the official currency for U.A.E. user accounts on November 10, 2015,[76] the majority of Rockstar's games became available for purchase for those user accounts, including most Grand Theft Auto titles. (For unknown reasons, originally almost all of Rockstar's games were regionally locked out on Steam, whether banned or not.) Steam users in the neighbouring countries were not indulged with the same favour, however.
Heavy Rain Banned likely due to graphically violent, sexual content, nudity[77] and a sultry seduction scene.[78]
Injustice: Gods Among Us Despite being initially marketed for Middle Eastern distribution under the title of Injustice: The Mighty Among Us, the game failed to surpass the NMC's censors for a period of time,[79] and was banned likely for the case package and on-disc software title itself being identical to its European release, with the term "God" retained (official reason not given however). The game had been demoed at various events in the U.A.E. without incident for many months prior to the official release date. The ban on the title had since been lifted though.[79] The expanded Ultimate Edition was released on schedule and distributed regularly.
Mafia II Banned likely due to excessive violence and nudity.[80] The ban has since been lifted for digital versions of the game.
Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 Both banned more likely due to possible homosexual relationships.[73] Ban did not extend to digital versions of the games however.
Max Payne 3 Banned likely due to excessive violence and sexual themes.[81] Ban was issued roughly three weeks after official release date.
Red Dead Redemption Was initially banned,[82] likely due to nudity. Ban later lifted circa two months after official release date.[83][84]
Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV Banned likely due to sexual themes, excessive violence, and for the use of drugs and alcohol.[85] Ban did not extend to digital versions of the games however.
Spec Ops: The Line Banned more likely due to the game's fictional depiction of the UAE's real-life city of Dubai in a state of ravage and destruction. Unlike other banned video games, the NMC had extended their focus for this title going far as to issue the TRA to block the game's official website[86] and subsequently stop the title's distribution throughout the rest of the GCC, as well as Jordan, and Lebanon.[87] Local retailers, such as Geekay Games, are not even able to sell the game via their online shops to UAE residents.[88] The game remains unavailable via digital platforms such as Steam and PSN.
Watch Dogs Was initially banned likely due to sexual themes, nudity, excessive depictions of violence, and for use of drugs and alcohol. The game's local distributor had confirmed that the title will be available in the U.A.E. and the rest of the region by August 15, 2014 for some platforms (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360) and without any in-game alterations.[89] Only copies of the game with localised Middle East covers were allowed, subsequently banning imported copies for other platforms. For example, the Xbox One version was not released until sometime after the console itself had its official launch in September 2014. The PC version remains unavailable, consequently blocking access to the downloadable version on Steam. Due to the fact Ubisoft cannot officially distribute their games on Nintendo consoles specifically for the Middle East (for various meta reasons), the Wii U version remains unavailable. (Ubisoft games on Nintendo consoles are generally available as imported products in the region.)

United Kingdom[edit]

Games in the UK usually only receive a ban when they contain real sex scenes or and gratuitous violence. PEGI age ratings are compulsory and are backed by legislation, taking effect on 30 July 2012.[90] It is illegal to sell, buy or rent (but legal to import) a game that has not been classified by an approved age rating organisation in the UK. This only applies to games stored on physical media, not to downloadable media.[91]

Name Reason
Carmageddon Was threatened with being refused certification in its uncut form. Was subsequently altered to replace pedestrians with zombies.[92] The restriction was later lifted, and a patch was released to restore the original human content.
Manhunt 2 The uncut version was the only game to be refused classification by the BBFC (therefore banned), due to graphic excessive violence and cruelty.[93] After this, a modified version was made and submitted for certification - this was initially refused classification as well, but was allowed to be sold after an appeal (despite a successful challenge to this ruling).
The Punisher Despite the game already being the edited American release, it was threatened with being refused classification due to objectionable content: The interrogation scenes were deemed graphically controversial and could cause harm to the public. The publishers made edits at the request of the BBFC to further mask these scenes,[94] and this final version received an 18 certificate.

United States[edit]

In the United States, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)—a self-regulatory organization, issues ratings for video games and enforces voluntary regulations on how they are marketed and sold.[95] The Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association—which challenged a California law restricting the sale of "violent video games" as defined by the state to minors, that video games were considered a protected form of expression under the First Amendment, meaning that federal or state law cannot be used to regulate their distribution based on content.[96][97]

However, games can still be legally banned from sale as the result of lawsuits; a nude model featured in The Guy Game sued its developer and publisher over use of her likeness, as she was underage at the time of filming and thus could not personally consent to her depiction. All remaining copies of the game that contained her likeness were pulled from stores.[98][99] In 2012, Silicon Knights was ordered to pull Too Human and X-Men: Destiny, and destroy all remaining copies, materials, and source code relating to the games, after it was found that the studio had plagiarized Epic Games' proprietary Unreal engine and had used it in the two games and other unreleased projects without purchasing a license.[100][101]

The ESRB's highest rating, "Adults Only", has been considered a de facto ban on the mainstream sale of certain games, as most retailers refuse to stock games carrying the rating, and they cannot be published on major video game consoles due to company policies.[102][103][104][105] The release of Thrill Kill, an AO-rated fighting game with strong sexual themes, was outright cancelled by Electronic Arts (who had acquired its developer) due to objections over its content.[106] Following the discovery of an incomplete sex minigame that was not included in the final game but could be accessed using a modification or cheating device, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was re-rated Adults Only and recalled by Rockstar Games, in favor of a new revision of the game that omitted the offending content entirely and carried the original Mature rating.[107][108][109]

Venezuela[edit]

In November 2009, the Government of Venezuela announced that it would ban all video games in which the objective was to shoot people. The ban was due to widespread violence in the country.

The bill was later published in the public journal of that country on December 3[110] and gone into effect 3 months later,[111] March 3, 2010, making Venezuela the first country to completely ban violent video games in the world and making their manufacturing, distribution, selling, rental, exhibition and use illegal. Even though the proponents were not from the Venezuelan Government's political party, Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), President Hugo Chávez supported the ban,[112] claiming there are some Internet games featuring him so players can "kill them"; and even calling video games consoles, including Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation, "poison" and values of the capitalism, which he considers "the road to hell".

According to reports of the Venezuelan National Guard, more than 13,000 objects, including violent video games, were massively destroyed to the date in the states of Lara[113] and Portuguesa.[114]

The ban is criticized by gamers and experts alike for its ambiguity and lack of clarity on its penalties, aside from being too harsh and indoctrinating a negative point of view.[115] On the other hand, Sony expressed their hopes for the government to make changes for the law for good.[116]

See also[edit]

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References[edit]

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  49. ^ Manhunt: Reasons for Decision Archived February 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  50. ^ New Zealand's OFLC pulls Postal² by Tony Smith, The Register, 2004-11-30.
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  52. ^ http://www.censorship.govt.nz/DDA/Pages/Screens/DDA/PublicationDecisionInformationPage.aspx
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