7 Controversial Video Games That Caused a Stir

Video games are often the source of controversy, particularly when they involve graphic violence.

As the medium become more realistic and interactive, this trend is unlikely to die down any time soon. While many games have some degree of offensive content, the following are some of the most delightfully cringe-worthy. These are chock full of guns and gore galore, with some banned and others sparking thousands of think pieces. Let’s take a look.

1. Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto has been sparking moral panic for years. It’s even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records Gamer’s Edition as the most controversial game series ever, with thousands of articles dedicated to unpacking the subject. So what’s the story here? Well, the aim of the game is to make it to the top of the gangster underworld. In your journey to become a criminal overlord, you’ll get to kill, torture, sell drugs, and of course steal loads of cars along the way.

In Grand Theft Auto, you not only pay for prostitutes, you run them down with your car afterwards. As a result the game’s been outright banned in Brazil, and condemned by various other countries.

2. Hitman

Another controversial game with a premise based on illegal activity is Hitman. In this game, you get to take on the role of ‘Agent 47’, a high-flying killer for hire. There are plentiful ways to get the job done, whether it’s with a traditional firearm or with household objects like shovels.

Some of the more gruesome scenes involve knives, which can be realistically used to slash your targets. Despite (or because of) the violence the game’s been insanely popular, spawning numerous sequels and a feature film.

3. Manhunt

The third title on our list is perhaps the only one that has actually been accused of playing a direct role in a real-life teenage murder in the UK. Although this was debunked in court by the judge, the controversy hasn’t ever gone away. Manhunt and its sequel are undeniably graphic, dark games. The player steps into the shoes of an inmate on death row, who must survive by killing enemies in progressively brutal ways, from blades to baseball bats.

4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

First-person shooter games like the Call of Duty series are controversial by nature, but  Modern Warfare 2 really takes it to the next level.

During the game’s ‘No Russian’ mission, you have the option to carry out a massacre of civilians in a Russian airport. Now this alone makes it more than a tad questionable, but Anders Breivik also stated in his manifesto that he practiced his shooting technique by playing the game before carrying out his real-life 2011 attacks in Norway.

5. Night Trap

Are you a fan of horror films? Then you probably would enjoy Night Trap, which uses typical tropes from classic horror movies. In the game, the player’s mission is to save a group of young women in a house by setting up traps for the baddies trying to get them.

The game’s free from the realistic gore that some of the others on this list showcase, but it’s still been criticised for its exploitative nature. The girls in the game are scantily dressed, and the violence is worthy of any B-grade flick.

6. Mortal Kombat

Let’s go back to one of the first video games to get parents up in arms, Mortal Kombat. While today its simple graphics and set-up look almost quaint, the violence it shows was laughably over-the-top. When you finish a match against your opponent, you can pull crazy moves like chopping off your opponent’s head, ripping out his heart, or pulling out his spine.

Eventually, the game was changed to turn the blood green rather than red to make the violence even more cartoonish.

7. Leisure Suit Larry

Finally, we’ll finish off our list with the ever-popular Leisure Suit Larry. Do you remember this kitschy 90’s hit? The super tasteless premise involved a sleazy character named Larry, who just wanted to lose his virginity. The aim of the game is to get him laid, by earning money to hire a prostitute or gifts for his conquests.

The graphics are too simple to be very realistic or graphic, but the misogynistic nature of the game is what made it controversial at the time.