Controversy. For as much as we hate it, we also love it. What’s like without a little whimsy, if not boring and slow-paced? When speaking about controversial things, one would immediately think about actors and actresses, movies, scandals, the news, politics and so on. But no, today, we’re taking a look at the most controversial ever video games. Yes, there’s a whole bunch!
First, let’s settle on the idea of controversial content. Some content is good on its own, but most of the time, it’s something odd, or out of the ordinary, which makes that content into something a bit more than the norm. Controversy can be about a scene in a movie, a quote from a book, or a theme or a level in one game, as we’ll discover during this most controversial games listing.
What Is A Controversial Game
What makes a video game into a controversial one? Would you consider a game like Need for Speed to be controversial? What about Super Mario Brothers, the pinnacle of video gaming history? No? Well, you might want to think again, really! What makes a video game controversial can either be the story behind it, the content in it, or the events following a release.
For example, there are countless stories of gamers being sick, even losing their lives after spending a little too much time in a certain MMORPG, or even becoming socially distant because of too much play time. Is that a controversial game? Not on its own, but by the way people behave from it, yes, it turns into a controversial title, with all of the “perks” of this.
Most Controversial Games We Could Find
Surely, many are the video games which can be considered controversial. Most of them are in the thriller and horror genres, but a few are nothing like scary or even frightening. This list that we’ll cover below is made out of controversial titles that have sprung around over the years, as well as the reason why these games are considered to be weird, different, or just terrifying.
Mortal Kombat - Being around for so long, you'd think that Mortal Kombat, the series of fighting games that changed the norm, would be considered boring, even mundane by now. But still, this particular game, regardless of its extensive title, has been a fan of controversy from the very beginning. Why? Because of the now-famous Fatalities, which involve the most gruesome ways of killing your dying opponent in any video game. Regardless if Sub-Zero is ripping out the spine of the rival, or Johnny Cage punching the head of someone off their neck, Mortal Kombat is truly a gore perfection.
Night Trap - Here's a game you probably never even heard of, but extremely controversial, although simple and not very technologized. Night Trap was released back in 1992 and was first made for the SEGA CD, so you now get a sense of just how old this one is. Regardless, it's still to date one of the most controversial games ever made. The title used full-motion videos to play violence and suggest murder. The main protagonist is Augers, a vampire-like being that stalks and kills teenage girls in one big, frightening mansion. One look at this game is enough for anyone to see what's coming next…
Carmageddon - Speaking of gore and blood... Carmageddon! Do we really need to go through the description for this one? Maybe just for the heck of it, yes, but for most people, Carmageddon needs no further introduction. Released back in 1997, the series follows a bloodthirsty driver as he smashes and runs over people, animals, and other cars. You get certain bonuses for running over people, so there's that! Some countries found Carmageddon so violent, they restricted it, like Germany, where people were exchanged for robots and zombies. Brazil downright banned the title, without even considering the other versions of the game.
Grand Theft Auto - Wait, what is this particular series of games even doing on a list of the most controversial games? Well, in reality, it shouldn't be a surprise that GTA has come down with a ton of criticism, ever since the beginning of the series. Violence, killing, cops murdering, torture, and drug use are among the regular, daily tasks the characters have to perform while on their missions towards mafia success. Although this is one of the most popular series of games ever released, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates have banned the titles altogether.
Manhunt - One of the most legendary releases of the year 2003, the Manhunt series are famous for their horror and survival, actually being one of the very first titles of the genre that really took off. Controversial? Well, what do you call a game that's filled with gross executions, and some of the most graphic, violent gameplays ever made? Controversial, and highly controversial, if we're being honest. This game is banned in Australia, and they're quite liberal down there, that's how controversial it is. Manhunt was also making headlines after a killer, which supposedly got inspiration from the game, killed a 14-year-old in England.
Custer's Revenge - A game from the year 1982 can be highly controversial, to say the least. This is "Custer's Revenge", a game made for the now ancient Atari 2600 console, in which General Cluster, naked and out for some gruesome acts, rapes Native American women. Mystique, the publisher behind the game, has made a small fortune from sales, earning the equivalent of today's $130 per one game sold. When the people got a hang of just how wrong and unnatural the gameplay was though, the game was finally put out of circulation for good, all over the world.
Postal - Following the mishaps of a man with mental issues, Postal is about killing everything and everyone, especially civilians, police, and other creatures that just mind their own business. It was a controversial title from the very start, but it got to such popularity that there were sequels, spinoffs, even terrible movies made after it. The Postal 2 sequel was so bad, and wrong, and surely, controversial, many countries such as New Zealand and Australia, Sweden, Germany, and Malaysia banned it completely. Violent and without an actual scope, Postal was just a sick game, to speak the truth.
Wolfenstein 3D - Take this game's recipe for controversy and, ultimately, success on a large scale. If you want your game to be on everybody's minds, sprinkle the gore, the violence and the grave imagery with some Nazi elements. And there you have it, a game that's controversial, wrong, and downright sick. Although it's considered to be the grandfather of all shooter games, Wolfenstein 3D is no less than a controversy in itself, with its many elements that would arouse even the calmest of all human rights activists. It's not a banned game in many places, but that doesn't make it any less controversial.
Hatred - If there's a game that can encapsulate its entire idea and manifestation into just its title, this one is the game. Hatred describes the game perfectly, as it is nothing but genocide in crusade form on the streets of New York City. The game is marked as Adults Only, but was considered so violent and extreme, it even got pulled from Stream for a while. It got back into it but many retail stores still won't sell it at the counter. Engaging in violent acts virtually has nothing to do with the real world, yet even the fictional can sometimes be too much to bear.
JFK: Reloaded - Producers of this game really took a chance and the criticism that followed, with releasing such a title. This game is the reinterpretation in the virtual form of the tragedy that has happened when American president J.F. Kennedy was shot on the streets of Dallas. This historical simulator puts you in the shoes of the killer, namely Lee Harvey Oswald, and your mission is, well, to take out the US president and escape from the consequences. The game was condemned by the family of the former president, expressly by senator Ted Kennedy. Controversial at a Capitol level, nonetheless.
DOOM - From the very first release until our current day, the DOOM series was the pinnacle of controversial gaming. Graphic violence mixed with satanic imagery gets you that if you're a video game. It's a mix that's guaranteed to be labelled as controversial, and give you some restrictions in some countries. In fact, the original was considered so wrong, it was banned in Germany for 17 years until the local authorities lifted the restriction. Nowadays, the DOOM games continue to be at the top of the list when it comes to graphic, violent, and controversial titles.
Saw: The Video Game - Fans of the Saw series of movies will take no surprise in finding out the game made after the films is considered a tad controversial. With many death traps, violent torture porn, and many other eccentric features, this game is filled with gruesome executions and graphic deaths. The "good" news is, even if it boasts of graphic content, "Saw: The Video Game" managed to avoid being banned into any country. So no matter where you're coming from, if you want to experience torture and gruesome death traps as the movie heroes, you may now proceed towards that. Are you ready to... play a game?
Should You Play A Controversial Title?
Of course you should! The more controversial a title is, the better for the overall gaming and weird experience at the end of it. But you should take some notes about how to behave and actually play these controversial games. It’s not a lot, but we’ve come up with a few “rules” about how you should approach a controversial title. Just so you survive it, you know?!
There are a few questions you should ask yourself before playing these games. If these questions come back in a positive way, as in, if the answers benefit you, then yes, you may play even the most controversial video game you can ever think of. And the first question is, am I 100% aware this is a video game, and nothing else? If you grasp this idea, that you’re just playing a video game, a piece of fantasy, an almost work of art, then you’re surely good to play the game as you understand its entertainment value and leave it at that.
The second question is, am I hurting myself if I play this game? This question is very serious, as many controversial games have elements of gore, graphic violence, even rape, as we’ve seen in the list above. If any of these elements disturb your well being and mental peace, then now, you should not try a game that’s controversial in that way. Stick to the regular games, for the sake of your inner joy. Games should be fun, not problematic.
For the final question, you should ask yourself if playing a certain game will hurt others, like your family, girlfriend or boyfriend, buddies and so on. Eventually you will be bringing the topic of gameplay up and, if someone at your table is uncomfortable with a certain title, you either not talk about it, or better, not play it for the sake of your dear ones.
So there you have it, the complete list of some controversial games from the entire history of the industry, as well as the questions and answers you should be contemplating upon before trying any of them out. Remember the fundamental rule of gaming when you decide to try out one of these titles: it’s just a game! If you can do that, you will mostly have fun. And be a little scared, or downright terrified. But still entertained. Grab the title that best fits your style, and have fun! You know, if it’s not banned in the territory where you live...