Video games have long been a source of debate. From their depictions of racism and violent depictions to their impact on children’s development, these media have led to much outrage throughout their lifespans.
COGconnected has compiled a list of some of the most controversial video games ever created to shed some light on what constitutes controversial video game titles.
Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto video games have long been notorious for their violence, making it one of the most controversial titles available. But it’s important to keep in mind that these simulations of reality contain elements that set them apart from other video games; still, some have accused these GTA games of contributing to real-life issues by playing them.
Grand Theft Auto III was a game in the franchise that caused considerable outrage among media critics, mainly for allowing its protagonist to steal cars, kill people and engage in implied sexual relationships with prostitutes – all while facing no moral repercussions like other titles in its genre.
Though not explicitly endorsing sexual or violent content, the game still garnered severe scrutiny from both press and many parents, leading many schools and states to ban it and pass laws prohibiting its sale. Although these initial events subsided eventually, its successor series has continued to spark intense debate ever since.
Grand Theft Auto games have long been plagued by accusations of sexuality, drugs, and violence, but more recently have also drawn fire for their political content. Certain missions require players to ignite gang wars between Haitian and Cuban communities in Vice City which sparked protests from these groups as well as being one factor behind a US$246 million lawsuit filed by Aaron Hamel and Kimberly Bede’s families who believe two teenagers who claim inspiration from Grand Theft Auto were responsible for shooting them both dead.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving was among those to voice strong opposition to GTA 4’s feature that allowed players to drive when Niko Bellic was drunk, though ultimately failed. Rockstar Games justified their feature by asserting that driving while drunk is an existing issue that causes many deaths; therefore their audience will recognize that the game does not endorse such behaviors.
Night Trap was one of the first video games to spark real controversy. Along with Mortal Kombat, Night Trap was featured at a 1993 US Senate hearing on violence in video games that eventually resulted in the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), an industry ratings system still used today. Critics attacked Night Trap for its gratuitous violence and sexual aggression toward women; leading major retailers like Toys “R” Us and Kay-Bee Toys to remove its shelves; its controversial content also helped pave the way for stricter parental controls on most platforms today.
The game’s premise is straightforward: players take control of Sega CD’s Control Attack Team – an ensemble of scantily clad sleepover girls tasked with protecting their house against an army of vampires and monsters threatening it from within – to defend it from vampires and monsters attacking it from within. Switch between multiple cameras throughout the house in order to set booby traps that will protect these sleepover girls against possible attackers.
Night Trap was one of the first interactive films released at its time, yet no other games utilized this technology as effectively. With its B movie-esque quality and humor as well as its bubblegum pop soundtrack that played throughout, this experience was truly memorable.
Night Trap was relatively tame despite some gratuitous scenes involving girls wearing silky nightgowns, though there was one scene with three Augers attacking Lisa as she’s getting ready for bed wearing her night gown in the bathroom. Although Lisa battles them off using over-the-top B movie horror screams and fight-back techniques, one of their blood-drawing hook devices slice into her neck, rendering the battle lost and ultimately losing.
Night Trap’s controversial content helped pave the way for more stringent parent controls in gaming, but wasn’t enough to stop Sega from creating another similar title two years later. They released Scene of the Crime as an exhibition of what their new console, the NEMO, could do and later used this demo version as the foundation for an identical full game version which would later appear on Sega CD.
Mortal Kombat has long been one of the most iconic video game series, yet its legacy remains clouded with controversy. Now that Mortal Kombat 11 will soon be arriving on store shelves, let’s look back on some of those instances when its franchise was embroiled in drama.
Mortal Kombat first made waves upon its release in 1992, not only due to its gory content. For the first time ever, its violence made headlines and ignited debate over media violence as a whole and prompting politicians to take notice. Studies suggested playing violent video games made children more aggressive; further fuelling controversy were U.S. Senate hearings which helped craft today’s industry-led rating system for videogames.
Mortal Kombat stood out from its competition with its realistic portrayal of violence that many found disturbing, as it featured more realistic fighting techniques modeled on reality rather than the fictional actors seen in Street Fighter. Players could access horrific Fatalities such as Sub-Zero ripping off an opponent’s head and spine in some locations; consequently, this led to its ban.
Later, Mortal Kombat caused more controversy regarding issues of race and gender. With several Asian characters featured among its roster of kung fu heroes, critics charged that Mortal Kombat II promoted racist and sexist stereotypes; particularly after its release.
Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association made similar claims after Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to contribute to an ever-increasing gun violence culture in America. Although many commentators criticized his remarks at that time, this did not deter him from making similar statements again in 2017 in connection with Charleston church shooting and numerous violent video games such as Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat 2.
Mortal Kombat 11 has long been at the center of controversy, most recently with regards to its inclusion of less revealing costumes for female characters in Mortal Kombat 11. Although some fans argue the developers chose a different approach in creating its aesthetic, this issue remains divisive among hardcore gamers.
The Postal series has gained fame for its violent and sexual content, making it one of the most controversial video games ever created. Now considered a cult classic and with several sequels being produced over time.
This game, released in 2003, caused quite an uproar due to its graphic violence and sexually explicit dialogue, provoking outrage from politicians as well as banning in several countries. Uwe Boll also directed an adaptation film for it.
Postal 2 has won critical acclaim despite its controversial content, garnering an ever-increasing fanbase and becoming highly profitable for developer Running With Scissors. Recently re-released on both Steam and GOG with updated graphics and multiplayer support; unlike many modern titles that try to be “politically correct”, Postal 2 embraces its controversial nature unabashedly.
Players take control of a character named Postal Dude and must kill as many people as possible in this game. With an array of weapons including sniper rifles, handguns, shotguns, machine guns, and explosives on offer, including explosives; graphic blood-soaked body parts can be seen around every corner accompanied by an intense sound track that includes pained screams of agony from death scenes or car explosions – this title certainly lives up to its name!
Though not meant as a serious drama, the game delivers a shocking experience that may cause controversy. The Dude himself does not come off as sympathetic; instead being shown as a psychopath. While the game does not provide deeper meaning or messages for gamers to consider when making their choices for entertainment purposes, its shock value may appeal to gamers looking for mindless stress relievers.
Although this game wasn’t designed to be political, it has attracted considerable criticism from conservative gamers and gaming communities alike. Additionally, GamerGate, an anti-feminist movement which has caused unrest within gaming circles has even welcomed it with open arms.
Postal 2 is an engaging and challenging shooter despite its contentious subject matter. With its online multiplayer mode and improved graphics, fans of the series should find it to their liking. Unfortunately, some retailers are choosing not to sell it despite it deservedly having wider distribution.