Let’s face it: controversy is extremely easy to manufacture and almost instantly brings notoriety to itself. This is especially true in the video game industry, as nearly every video game out there has had some kind of controversy surrounding it, or has offended somebody, often for trivial reasons. However, there are a handful of games out there that truly deserving of the term “controversial” because of how offensive, disgusting, and downright awful they are. Read on and see the top 10 most offensive video games ever.
Warning: graphic content will be discussed.
Really, Pokemon? Yes, believe it or not, the Pokemon games have had their fair share of controversy over the years, despite being rated E for Everyone and targeted toward a younger audience. The original Pokemon games for the Nintendo Game Boy (Pokemon Red and Blue) got in some hot water over one of their creature designs. The Pokemon Jynx was accused of being racist and even Satanic in appearance due to its face bearing a resemblance to an actor in blackface, and the design was later reworked. Additionally, the mobile gaming sensation Pokemon GO was the focus of intense media scrutiny after it took the world by storm in July 2016, as there were many reports of physical injuries, car accidents, and even death resulting from people playing the augmented reality game.
19. Night Trap
Released at a time when the full-motion video game genre was all the rage, Night Trap is a horror game that was released for the Sega CD in 1992 that plays out like a C-grade slasher film, with minimal input from players actually required to progress the story. Although the game was relatively tame by 1992 standards — and looks positively quaint today — Night Trap was heavily scrutinized in the same 1993 United States Senate committee hearings on video game violence that would lead to the creation of the ESRB.
While the goal of Night Trap is to prevent the trapping and killing of women, it was claimed that the game featured gratuitous violence and explicit sexual content, despite the fact that it contained no nudity or extreme acts of violence. Though the controversy resulted in increased sales temporarily, Sega decided to pull Night Trap from store shelves in January 1994, with a censored version later released and ported to the 3DO, Sega 32X, MS-DOS, and Mac OS, and a remastered version released on PS4 and Xbox One in 2017.
An isometric shoot ’em up in which players control a misanthropic mass-killing sociopath on a “genocide crusade” to kill as many people as possible, the surprising thing about Hatred is not that it was deemed controversial, but that its detractors were largely video game journalists — not parent groups or politicians — who criticized it for not only being a poor reflection of the medium, but a poorly made game to boot.
Gamezone’s Mike Splechta worried that Hatred would become the “next scapegoat” for school shootings and other acts of violence in America, while Rock, Paper, Shotgun noted in their review that “Hatred fails in every way.” In light of the controversy, Valve decided to remove Hatred from Steam Greenlight, but ended up reinstating it after gamers labelled the move an act of censorship. These days, Hatred is mostly forgotten about because it simply wasn’t good enough to stay in the spotlight.
One of the most influential video games ever made, Doom, along with Wolfenstein 3D, helped pioneer the first-person shooter genre and launch a franchise that has continued to stay relevant a quarter century after its conception. However, while Doom is a gaming mainstay nowadays, it faced quite a bit of heat in its early years due to its graphic violence and satanic imagery, which drew criticism from multiple groups.
The Genesis 32X port was one of the first games to receive an M for Mature rating from the ESRB and received increased scrutiny following the Columbine High School shootings on April 20, 1999, after it was discovered that the perpetrators, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, had both been avid Doom players. In fact, Harris even wrote in his journal that shooting up his school would be “like playing Doom,” which helped add up to Doom becoming one of the leading scapegoats for the ills of American society in the 90s.
16. Border Patrol
Border Patrol is browser-based flash game that has you play as a border guard protecting the American border from immigrants. However, these intruders are neither evil or villainous; they are simply people coming in from Mexico. The game divides the Mexican individuals into either a nationalist, a drug dealer, or a pregnant woman. If you haven’t noticed by now, the game is extremely racist right off the hop and only gets worse, as the only goal of the game is to shoot every single Mexican who is trying to enter the USA, no matter who they are. The game is so hated that an actual petition was created on change.org to try and rid the world of this awfully racist and unneeded creation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t successful and the game is still readily available online.
15. Soldier of Fortune
The first of many first person shooters on this list, Soldier of Fortune was released in 2000 and was the first video game to feature the GHOUL damage model engine created by Raven Software. This game is without a doubt best known for its extremely graphic depictions of the human body being dismembered by bullets. This engine made it possible for an unthinkable amount of violence, such as blowing an enemies head clean off, shooting them in the stomach to reveal their bowels and a bloody mess, and even a microwave weapon to fry them. If you can find a more gory and violent game than Solider of Fortune (that isn’t intentionally over-the-top in its depiction, mind you), be our guest.
First released on the PlayStation 2 in 2003, Manhunt is a stealth-based survival horror game developed by Rockstar North in which players control a death row prisoner forced to participate in a series of snuff films that task him with carrying out a number of different executions. While Manhunt scored well with critics and even spawned a 2007 sequel, the game’s graphic violence did not go unnoticed by legislators and the media. Manhunt was even implicated in the murder of 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah of England by his 17-year-old friend Warren Leblanc in 2004, but the police and courts eventually dismissed the implication.
Although it’s been argued that Manhunt is a game that doesn’t so much glorify violence as it does show how horrific it is, former Rockstar employee Jeff Williams wrote in 2007 that even the staff that worked on the game were made uncomfortable by its content. “There was almost a mutiny at the company over the game,” Williams explains. “[It] just made us all feel icky. It was all about the violence, and it was realistic violence. We all knew there was no way we could explain away that game. There was no way to rationalize it. We were crossing a line.”
Bonetown is an adult adventure PC game that was released in 2008. The game itself follows a man whose sole purpose in life is to have sex with as many women as possible; that’s it. The game got hugely negative reviews for its sexist content, its mediocre gameplay, and juvenile humor that mostly cater to 12-year-olds. The company that created the game, D-Dub Software, also hoped to set out and have this game create a new industry and marketing model for adults only games; instead, they wound up with a load of controversy (no pun intended, we swear!) on their hands.
12. Six Days in Fallujah
A tactical third-person shooter set during the Iraq War, Six Days in Fallujah proved to be so controversial that it never even made it to release. Konami and developer Atomic Games trumpeted the game’s realism, but many people saw this as being in poor taste considering the Iraq War was still ongoing at the time. Veterans and parents of soldiers who died in the war were particularly critical of the game, with Tim Collins, a former lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment, calling the game “flippant” and arguing that “It’s particularly insensitive given what happened in Fallujah,” for Konami to release such a game. Bowing to pressure, Konami announced that it was stepping down as publisher of Six Days in Fallujah on April 27, 2009, and Atomic Games was shuttered later that year after failing to find another publisher.
11. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
The Grand Theft Auto series has been controversial from day one, but the most famous example has to be 2004’s GTA: San Andreas. Rather than the usual complaints about violence and foul language (though there were still plenty of those), San Andreas came under fire for its sexual content. In June 2005, less than a year after the game was first released, a modder from the Netherlands named Patrick Wildenborg released the “Hot Coffee mod,” a reference to how the game handles its unseen sex scenes. The mod let players engage in a crude looking sex minigame and probably wouldn’t have gotten so much attention if Wildenborg had developed the content himself, but
Unfortunately, San Andreas developers Rockstar had created “Hot Coffee” and even though the studio disabled the minigame prior to release, they left the code in. Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive were forced to change the game’s rating from Mature (M) to Adults Only (AO), making San Andreas the only mass-released AO console game released in the United States. Production on this version of the game was halted and a new version was released, but the damage had been done: class-action litigation was brought against Take-Two and eventually settled, and the term “Hot Coffee” became shorthand for poorly-rendered sex scenes among gamers everywhere.
Rockstar sure likes their controversy, don’t they? Unlike games like Manhunt and Grand Theft Auto, which actually make sense as controversial entertainment, the media storm around Rockstar’s 2006 release Bully was blown way out of proportion and was based purely on the studio’s reputation for making violent games. A narrative emerged that Bully was a game that glorified bullying and that it would have a harmful effect on impressionable youth, whereas in actual fact it was a rather tame open-world adventure focused on navigating social circles at a snooty prep school. Hardly the “Columbine simulator” that anti-video game snake oil salesman and disbarred attorney Jack Thompson would have had people believe. In spite of the negative press, Bully earned positive reviews from critics and attracted a dedicated fanbase who continue to hold out hope for a sequel.
9. Call of Duty 2: Modern Warfare
As one of the most popular first-person shooter franchises ever made, it’s inevitable that Call of Duty would generate some controversy, but nothing tops 2009’s Modern Warfare 2 when it comes to the series’ most shocking moment. Early on in Modern Warfare 2’s campaign, there’s a mission called “No Russian,” in which players control a terrorist who helps shoot up an airport (technically, you play as an undercover CIA agent, but this distinction did little to quell peoples’ outrage). The mission was so shocking that the game even includes a “Disturbing Content Notice” at the beginning of the campaign, warning players about the offensive content.
While the mission doesn’t technically require players to even fire a shot (and is actually something the game’s designers put in to make people think about violence in gaming as a whole), there was a lot of fallout once “No Russian” became public knowledge. The game was altered in Japan and Germany to trigger a mission failed screen if players shot any civilians and in Russia, the mission was removed entirely.
8. JFK: Reloaded
This little doozy was released in 2004 for PC by Traffic Games and was marketed as the “first mass-participation forensic construction”. In reality, it was simply a game that allowed you to carry out the horrendous assassination of John F. Kennedy and get scored based on how similar your approach was to the actual crime. It is extremely easy to see why so many people got upset about this game, as it lets you relive and recreate one of the worst days in American history. JFK: Reloaded is simply a despicable game and should have never been created, let alone released.
7. New York Defender
Like most of the titles on this list, New York Defender was created for no other reason than shock value; however, it goes much deeper with this game. This game focuses on the horrific tragedies of 9/11 and puts the player in control of people who try and stop an endless stream of planes from hitting the world trade centers. While we guess it’s good that the game focuses on defending New York rather than destroy it, New York Defender is nothing more than insensitive time waster. Thousands of people lost their lives on 9/11 and a national tragedy should not be used as the basis for a video game.
6. Mortal Kombat
Violence in video games wasn’t anything new when Midway released the original Mortal Kombat in 1992, but this addictive arcade fighting game became a scapegoat among parents and public officials who decried its graphically violent content as corrupting children and society alike. Unlike more “family-friendly” fighters such as Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat didn’t shy away from violence and gore, but rather embraced it as a key hallmark of the series. One of the game’s signature features were gory finishing moves called Fatalities, such as Sub-Zero’s now iconic “Spine Rip” move. Thanks to its over-the-top violence and engaging five-button control scheme, Mortal Kombat and its sequels would go on to become some of the most popular arcade games ever released, but it wouldn’t take long for politicians to take notice.
In 1993, Senators Joseph Lieberman and Herb Kohl spearheaded hearings over concerns of violence in games such as Night Trap, Lethal Enforcers and Mortal Kombat, calling on the entertainment software industry to create a ratings system or risk intervention from the federal government. And that’s how the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) came to be.
5. Custer’s Revenge
Custer’s Revenge came out all the way back in 1982 for the Atari 2600, which makes its despicable contents even more unbelievable. The fact that this game is still able to offend people in 2015, dated graphics and all, makes it hard to believe it ever made it to store shelves in the first place. The game puts players in control of General Custer, already one of the most controversial figures in American history, as he make his way from one side of the screen to the other in an effort to reach a naked Native American woman. In this game, Custer is nothing more than a bunch of pixels with a hard-on attempting to rape a woman. Offensive on multiple levels, it’s no wonder Custer’s Revenge remains a blight on the games industry over 30 years after it was first released. The amount of shock value this game must have had in the early 80s would have been staggering.
4. Postal 2
Postal 2 is a first person shooter game released in 2003 and is one of the goriest that you’ll ever find. This is a game where almost unthinkable acts of violence and racism appear on a near-constant basis and in a number of different ways. It seems as if the main goal of this game was to offend its players and it does a good job of that with things such as being able to put guns up cat’s anuses and then use them as silencers. While you could rate Postal 2 as a success based on its ability to offend, the game was most definitely not a success with critics or in terms of sales. Somehow that didn’t stop developer Running With Scissors from releasing a third game which, of course, was also awful in its controversy and public reception.
3. V-Tech Rampage
This is a horrific game that was released only a few weeks after the awful Virginia Tech shootings, in which a gunman shot and killed 32 people in one of the biggest mass murders in American history. A flash-based game that puts you in the role of the shooter and allows you to kill a bunch of pixelated students, V-Tech Rampage is simply a classic case of one terrible person trying to make a buck and a name for himself on the back of a horrific tragedy. Unsurprsingly, the game’s creator, Austrailia native Ryan Lambourn, would go on to make an even worse massacre simulator based on the Sandy Hook tragedy. Talk about a class act.
2. Ethnic Cleansing
Ethnic Cleansing is a first person shooter game released in 2002 by white nationalist organization National Alliance. In the game, which takes place during a race war, the player controls either a neo-Nazi or a KKK member who is given the job of killing various stereotypical minority characters with the final boss being former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. As you can imagine, this game was hugely controversial and was criticized greatly for its racist and just generally awful content.
Here it is: We have finally come to the most abhorrent and offensive video game ever created, Rapelay. Released in Japan in 2006, this abomination of a video game has players take the role of a male character who stalks and rapes a mother and her two daughters. Numerous countries have banned this game and rightfully so, as the game offers nothing of value to anybody (well, except rapists, we suppose) and simply allows the player to follow and eventually sexually assault females in a wide variety of positions. There is absolutely zero reason for this game to exist.