List of controversial video games
Table of controversial games
|1973||Gotcha||Arcade||Atari||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.|
|1976||Death Race||Arcade||Exidy||Violence (running over stickmen "gremlins", who then scream).|
|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.|
|1984-2009||Punch-Out!!||Arcades, NES, SNES, Wii||Nintendo, Next Level Games (2009 version)||Numerous instances of racial stereotyping, mainly of the opponent fighters that the players fight against.|
|1985||International Karate||Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Commodore 16, MS-DOS, MSX, ZX Spectrum||System 3||
Main article: Data East USA, Inc. v. Epyx, Inc.Data East USA sued Epyx, the publisher of the game in the United States (under the name of World Karate Championship) due to similarities between International Karate and Data East's Karate Champ. Although the suit was dismissed, Data East did obtain an injunction to prevent further sales of World Karate Championship, which was subsequently appealed and reversed.
|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.|
|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". Barbarian's violent content was also controversial and was banned in Germany by the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien because of it.|
|1987||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 resemble those for Marlboro cigarettes.|
|1987-present||Leisure Suit Larry Series||PC, PS2, Xbox, PS3, Xbox 360||Sierra Entertainment||Controversial for its obscenities and mature humor. Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude was released on PC censored and uncensored.|
|1991||J.B. Harold Murder Club||TurboGrafx-16||NEC||Sexual themes, including reference to an unsolved rape.|
|1992||Wolfenstein 3D||DOS||id Software||Violence, gore, Nazi symbolism, and the inclusion of Adolf Hitler as the final boss.|
|1992–present||Mortal Kombat series||Arcade||Midway (later Warner Bros. Interactive)||Blood, violence and gore. First fighter to introduce "Fatalities" to finish off opponents. 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.|
|1993||Fighter's History||Arcade, SNES||Data East||Capcom sued Data East in the United States and Japan on grounds of copyright infringements pertaining to Street Fighter II property. The US case were ruled in favor of Data East (which argued Karate Champ was the true originator of the competitive fighting game genre), as the "copied" elements were excluded from copyright, similar to Apple's graphical user interface lawsuit against Microsoft.|
|1993||Doom||PC||id Software||Intense, first-person violence, gore, and satanic themes. Was once blamed for the Columbine High School massacre.|
|1995||Hong Kong 97||Super Famicom||Happysoft Ltd.||A shooter that is both anti-communist and promotes Maoism, and the game is infamously known for having a picture of an actual dead body as the game over screen.|
|1996||SimCopter||PC||Maxis||A programmer named Jacques Servin introduced unauthorized "himbo" characters into the game, who would appear on certain dates and kiss.|
|1996||Duke Nukem 3D||PC, Sega Saturn, PS1||3D Realms||Violence, sexual themes, nudity.|
|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).|
|1997||Shadow Warrior||PC, Mac, iOS||3D Realms||Controversial for "insensitive" and "inauthentic" depictions of East Asian society and culture, although 3D Realms responded, saying that they did not intend to make a racist game but had deliberately used a melange of Asian culture in order to create a "fun game" which "didn't take itself too seriously" and parodied "bad kung fu movies". Despite their response, such criticism had continued.|
|1997||Carmageddon||PC, Mac, N64, PS1||SCi, Interplay Entertainment||Violence against pedestrians and animals.|
|1997||Postal||PC||Running with Scissors||Violence and Anti-law, most of which is committed against civilians and authorities.|
|1997–present||Grand Theft Auto series||PC, PS1, PS2, PS3, PS4, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One||Rockstar Games||
See also: Controversies surrounding Grand Theft Auto IV, Controversies surrounding Grand Theft Auto V and Hot Coffee modSexual 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. In Grand Theft Auto V, one mission called By The Book has player's controlling Trevor torturing Mr. K using big wrences, nipples electorcuted, gasoline, and pliers.
|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.|
|1998-present||Pokémon series||Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS||Nintendo, Game Freak||Jynx, one of the series's titular creatures, came under heavy backlash following a 2000 article by Carole Boston Weatherford that accused its design of perpetrating blackface imagery. The resulting controversy forced a drastic redesign of Jynx, changing its skin from black to purple and shrinking its eyes & mouth.
The series was also attacked by fundamentalist Christain groups, who argued that it promoted Satanic themes. In response, the Vatican broadcast its public approval of Pokémon in April 2001, claiming that the game was based on "intense ties of friendship" and lacked "any harmful moral side effects."
|1998||The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time||Nintendo 64||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.|
|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.|
|2000||Daikatana||PC||Ion Storm||A highly controversial advertisement regarding John Romero's involvement with the game, which caused a highly publicized outrage.|
|2001||Conker's Bad Fur Day||N64||Rare||Controversial for its "over the top" and "lewd" humor.|
|2002||Ethnic Cleansing||PC||Resistance Records||Racially-motivated violence, white supremacist themes.|
|2002||Kaboom!||Browser||fabolous999||Players control a suicide bomber, the aim of the game being to kill as many people as possible.|
|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.|
|2003||Postal 2||PC||Running with Scissors||Violence against pedestrians and police officers, racism, sexual themes, drug use, language, and animal cruelty. Banned in New Zealand, Sweden and Australia.|
|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 three video games to receive an "Adults-Only rating" due to violence, the other two being The Punisher and Hatred. 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".
|2003||Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball||Xbox||Tecmo||Many critics have commented that the game's shameless use of female bodies is often ridiculous at best, and some have found it downright offensive.|
|2003||Whiplash||PlayStation 2, Xbox||Crystal Dynamics||The game had some controversy over the animal cruelty, mainly by the RSPCA.|
|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.|
|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".|
|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.|
|2005||Gun||PC, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, Xbox 360||Activision||The game's offensive depictions of American Indians prompted the Association for American Indian Development to call a boycott against the 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.|
|2006||Bully||PS3, 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||
Main article: ESRB re-rating of The Elder Scrolls IV: OblivionRe-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.
|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.|
|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.|
|2006||Left Behind: Eternal Forces||PC||Left Behind Games||Accusations that the game promoted religious "convert or kill" violence, sexism and racism. Some reviewers denied that the game contained any truly controversial gameplay.|
|2006||Resistance: Fall of Man||PS3||Insomniac Games||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.|
|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.|
|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". 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. 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.|
|2007||BioShock||Xbox 360, PC , PS3||2K Games||An article in The Patriot Ledger, the local paper of developer Irrational Games, 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." 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". 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.|
|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, with Fox News host Martha MacCallum, which included the headline "full graphic sex". In actuality, the game's most explicit content is an indirect "sideboob" shot of a humanoid alien breast.|
|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.|
|2008||Muslim Massacre||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."|
|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. Like the original Space Invaders, death (game over) is inevitable. Many people considered it tasteless and inappropriate, and Taito threatened legal action for unauthorized use of Space Invaders content. The creator later pulled the game.|
|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."|
|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.|
|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". 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.|
|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.|
|2009||Resident Evil 5||PS3, Xbox 360, PC||Capcom||For a pre-release trailer that contains scenes of racism, 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.|
|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". It was also listed in the "Top ten most controversial games of 2009".|
|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. The game was banned in Australia for its excessive violence and gore, but later the uncensored version was rated. The game's New Orleans setting so soon after Hurricane Katrina was considered "a bad call".|
|2009||Fat Princess||PlayStation 3
|Titan Studios||Feminists argued that the game concept and title was hostile to women.|
|2009||Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2||PS3, Xbox 360, PC,||Infinity Ward||
Main article: Controversies surrounding Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2A 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. 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". The mission was made optional before release and removed from the game entirely.
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 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.
|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. 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."|
|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 stop publishing it.|
|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.|
|2011||Portal 2||PS3, Xbox 360, PC||Valve Corporation||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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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."|
|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. Volition eliminated these elements from the game to obtain a MA15+ rating by removing the mission these elements were used in, rendering the game's co-operative mode incompatible with versions from other countries.|
|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.|
|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.|
|2015||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. Despite some changes and assurances made by the developer, the scene in the game caused the Australian Classification Board to refuse to classify the game, effectively preventing legal sale of the title in that country.|
|2015||Hatred||PC||Destructive Creations||A game about a suicidal mass murderer, in which the primary mechanic is about shooting innocent civilians in the murderer's fit of rage. The CEO behind Hatred has been accused of having neo-Nazi, anti-Islamic affiliations due to liking some pages on Facebook related to such beliefs. The title has been highly controversial, and when the developers attempted to place it on the Steam Greenlight service, it was pulled by Valve due to the game's content, however, it has been brought back onto Greenlight by Gabe Newell, and later apologized for the removal. The game was rated "Adults Only" (AO) by the ESRB, which prevents retail sales and its release on consoles and would likely prevent its sale on digital storefronts for personal computers.|
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