The most controversial video games ever (NSFW)

It’s not even out yet, but hotly anticipated video game Medal of Honor has recently come under fire for its depiction of Taliban fighters, prompting criticism from no less than the UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox.

But of course controversy in video games is nothing new, so we’ve trawled the archives to come up with a rogues' gallery of the most controversial video games ever. Be warned that if you watch all these videos, you are guaranteed to see some pretty nasty stuff. We tried to find some dirt on Sonic the Hedgehog, but it seems like the prickly little customer is clean.


Medal of Honor

Released
Due October 2010

Controversy Rating
8/10

What’s the problem?

Defence Secretary Liam Fox called for first-person shooter Afghanistan-based Medal of Honour to be banned on account of elements that enable players to control Taliban fighters.

What happened?

The press kicked off in a big way, particularly regarding the depiction of killing British soldiers. Of course, there are no British armed forces actually included in the game, but that didn’t stop the media machine. The game’s publisher Electronic Arts was quick to point out that the soldiers featured in the game are US forces. So, it seems that it’s okay with the Taliban killing soldiers, as long as they’re American. Glad we got that one cleared up.


Manhunt

Released
2003

Controversy Rating
9/10



What’s the problem?

Despite being generally well-received on its release, stealth horror game Manhunt raised eyebrows among the critics for its graphic violence. In particular, opponents of the game questioned the gory manner in which players are able to execute their enemies, with three levels of executions available, and Level Three being the nastiest. Whereas Level One might see the enemy being strangled, Level Three really goes to town, with them being strangled and punched while groaning in pain.

In 2004, the game really gained notoriety, particularly in the UK, when it was linked with the murder of Stefan Pakeerah by his 17-year-old "friend" Warren Leblanc.

What happened?

Despite some of the big retailers, such as Game, initially removing the game from their shelves amid the media furore, it’s still available in the UK (rated 18). The authorities concluded that there was no link with the killing and Leblanc was sentenced to life. Various other countries have rated it as being suitable for over-18s and over-15s, while it’s reportedly an offence to own it in New Zealand. Consider yourselves warned Kiwis.

 

LittleBigPlanet

Released
2008

Controversy Rating
7/10


What’s the problem?

Sony’s puzzle-based platform game starring Sackboy (or Sackgirl) ran into trouble when it transpired that the lyrics to one of the songs used in the game included excerpts from the Qur’an, and could therefore be deemed offensive by some Muslims, despite the fact that it was written by a devout Muslim.

What happened?

The release was delayed and a patch was swiftly issued for those that had received the game early to remove the lyrics, leaving an instrumental version of the song. However, the head of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy then stepped up to argue, perfectly reasonably, that: “Muslims cannot benefit from freedom of expression and religion and then turn around and ask that anytime their sensibilities are offended that the freedom of others be restricted”.


Grand Theft Auto

Released
1997

Controversy Rating
10/10



What’s the problem?

We could hardly present a roundup of the most controversial games without including the knee-jerk reactionaries’ favourite - Grand Theft Auto. It seems that their main beef is the dizzyingly high level of gratuitous violence. Who'd have thunk it? Taking on the role of a criminal, players get to drive around at break-neck speeds and beat people to death at the drop of a hat. Numerous incidents, mostly in the US, have been linked to the game’s violent nature.

What happened?

Grand Theft Auto is still going strong despite frequently being cited in criminal trials as the root of the defendant’s behaviour. Former US lawyer Jack Thompson attempted to get numerous clients off by blaming the game, with little success. He was later disbarred and fined $43,000 for his conduct in these and other cases.

According to Guinness World Records, Grand Theft Auto is the most controversial game series ever to exist.


Pokémon

Released
1996

Controversy Rating
4/10



What’s the problem?

Derived from the Japanese for "Pocket Monsters", Pokémon is an outstandingly slick marketing operation that has been morphed from the original role-playing Game Boy games to include manga, trading cards and toys among other branded products. However, the cuddly creatures aren’t immune from the odd bit of controversy.

Various complaints have been made over the years claiming that the games depict violence and the occult. In 1999, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League complained about the use of a clockwise manji in the Japanese version of the Koga’s Ninja Trick card trading game, thanks to its similarity to the swastika.

What happened?

Nintendo withdrew Koga’s Ninja Trick as a result of the offending symbol, but in terms of video games, Pikachu and friends seem to have survived unscathed.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Released
2009

Controversy Rating
7/10



What’s the problem?
The sixth instalment in the CoD saga, this first-person shooter caused a media storm as the result of its depiction of a massacre of unarmed civilians in an airport.

What happened?

The game’s publisher, Activision, pointed out there are clear checkpoints in the game where players are warned about the content and given the option to skip the scene. After the inevitable media storm subsided, and probably as a direct result of it, the game went on to sell like hot cakes.

 

Mortal Kombat

Released
1992

Controversy Rating
5/10



What’s the problem?

Carrying on the groundwork laid by Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat helped to re-define fighting games. With its nifty graphics, based on actors rather than just animated cartoons, the game added a certain degree of believability. Although the gore may look laughably twee by today’s standards, it was this bloody realism, particularly the gratuitous but thoroughly entertaining "Fatalities", that landed the game in hot water.

What happened?

Blowing a satirical raspberry at their conservative critics in the US, the developers added a series of more user-friendly finishing moves such as The Friendship, where the winner presents their opponent with a bunch of flowers, rather than killing them. Surprisingly, this didn’t catch on.

Super Columbine Massacre RPG!

Released
2005

Controversy Rating
9/10



What’s the problem?

No prizes for guessing that this charming little role-playing game is based on the 1999 Columbine High School massacre carried out by disgruntled schoolboys Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Released for free online, it was pulled up for trivializing the deaths of innocent students who were killed in the tragedy.

What happened?

Surprisingly, many reviewers and tech journos managed to find some merit in the game, claiming that they could appreciate the intended parody in some of the segments. It’s unlikely that the victims’ families agree.


RapeLay

Released
2006

Controversy Rating
9/10

What’s the problem?

As dodgy video games go, this one’s pretty high up the Bad List. As the somewhat disturbing name suggest, this Japanese game involves a man who stalks and rapes a mother and her two daughters. Understandably, there have been one or two objections.

What happened?

British MP and long-time gaming critic Keith Vaz, well known for his views on the abundance of violence in video games, has condemned the game, while Amazon has withdrawn it from its Marketplace service where it was available to British sellers.


Mario Party 8

Released
2007

Controversy Rating
6/10



What’s the problem?

If you thought that portly Italian plumber Mario had got away with it, then you’d be wrong. When the game’s UK release was initially delayed by a month, it was said to be due to an assembly error. However, it was later reported that the game had been recalled due to its use of the jaw-droppingly unacceptable word "spastic".

What happened?

After some speedy re-jigging, the game was re-released, insult-free, about a month later.

Have we missed any? Reckon you can think of something even more controversial? Have you say in the comments box below...



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