Top 10 banned video games

21 Nov 2010

Video games that didn’t quite make the cut in certain markets.

10.  Pokemon series

Banned in: Saudi Arabia

Why: Unfortunately, even the cute and cuddly world of Pokemon is not safe from the gaming ban hammer. In 2001, all products of the Pokemon franchise were banned in Saudi Arabia for promoting gambling, Zionism and other religious intolerance. It is claimed the game(s) feature crosses, triangles and “the Star of David” throughout and because they are card-based games, they have been cited for gambling. In fact, in 1999, two nine-year-old boys sued Nintendo because they claimed the Pokémon Trading Card Game caused their problematic gambling!

9. Carmageddon

Banned in: Brazil, Germany and United Kingdom

Why: During the early and mid-Nineties, the gaming industry saw an explosion of violent games with Mortal Kombat, Doom and Quake bursting onto our screens. However, it was 1997’s Carmageddon which strayed a little too far over the controversial line. While the likes of Doom was “fantasy violence”, Carmageddon had players driving over pedestrians in urban streets and rewarded them for doing so. Banned for a time in Brazil, Germany and the UK, the game was released in many other countries with the pedestrians changed to non-human characters, such as zombies and robots. However, the game managed to sneak past Portuguese and Australian restrictions and hit the shelves unedited in both countries.

8. Football Manager 2005

Banned in: China

Why: This must be a joke, surely? Football, the great unifier of cultures and nations, banned? Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. Football Manager has never been short of minor hiccups due to copyright issues but FM2005 managed to find itself on the banned list in China. The reason for this was the game treated regions such as Tibet and Taiwan as individual countries separate to China. The People’s Republic of China claimed the game violated Chinese Law as it’s “content is harmful to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. I look forward to FM2012, when the People’s Republic of Cork will be an independent nation. 

7. Mortal Kombat series

Banned in: Brazil and Germany

Why: While many of us will remember these games fondly, however we must share a thought for German and Brazilian gamers who never had the sound of “toasty” ringing in their ears, or had their screens filled with more blood than the Friday the 13th film. Since 1992, the Mortal Kombat series has brought controversy to gaming. Over the top fight sequences and extreme graphic violence ensured the games got the publicity, but no one expected them to cause the inception of a government agency. Due to the controversy caused by the original game, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was conceived, requiring all video games to be rated and for these ratings to be placed on the games’ packaging.

6. Left 4 Dead 2

Banned in: Australia and Germany

Why: L4D2, the sequel to the multi-award-winning Left 4 Dead, was banned in Australia last year for being cursed with the affliction of not being suitable for under 18s. The zombie apocalypse, first-person shooter featured decapitation, dismemberment, wound detail and piles of dead bodies. Unfortunately for the game’s developers, the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) in Australia does not have a games rating higher than MA15+. This put L4D2 in a bit of an awkward position and as a result, an extremely scaled-down version of the game was released in the Australian market. The ban caused about 170 people to march in the “Epic Zombie Lurch” protest in Sydney on 14 November last year. This was in protest of the lack of an R18+ rating for video games in Australia, for which Australian Congress is currently considering.

5. Bully (Canis Canem)

Banned in: Brazil, UK and USA

Why: In what has to be a classic example of judging a book by its cover, Rockstar Games released Bully on all home consoles to widespread condemnation. Given the title and box art, the game was immediately cited by activists, anti-bullying organisations and politicians. Groups insisted the game promoted bullying, violence and was even label a “Columbine simulator” by one activist. The game itself, however, was more about schoolyard pranks and the pressures to fit in at school. In the US, a lawsuit was filed to block the sale of the game in Florida. In the UK, Dixons Retail refused to stock the game at it’s PC World and Currys outlets and in Brazil, anyone caught selling it would face a daily fine of R$1,000 – Yikes!

4. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Banned in: Australia and USA

Why: The Grand Theft Auto series has never been a stranger to controversy. Even in the early games when the player was driving around in a Google Maps-perspective style, the central themes were robbery, violence and drugs. However, it is the later sandbox instalment of San Andreas which has caused the most uproar in the series. The game featured an almost impossible to find mini game know as Hot Coffee. The mini game portrays sexual intercourse between two characters in the game. Once this became public knowledge, the ERSB was forced to re-rate the game and pull it from shelves in about 85pc of stores. A later edited version of the game with a “cold coffee” patch forbidding players from accessing the mini game was released.

3. Call of Duty series

Banned in: Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Restricted in Russia and Cuba.

Why: Most war games are happy to try and re-enact wars from parts of history that most gamers are too young to remember (spoiler alert – the allies win). The COD: Modern Warfare series, however, introduced gamers to modern-day conflicts. It would be nice to say the games bordered on tasteless but they have crossed the border, learned the language and now live in the democratic republic of tasteless with their wife and two kids. COD4: MW has the player killing Islamic soldiers, leading to Saudi Arabia and UAE banning the game. MW2 has been harshly criticised in Russia for letting the player act as a Russian terrorist killing unarmed civilians and COD: Black Ops received condemnation in Cuba as it has special forces trying to kill a young Fidel Castro. While I understand the controversy, the games are still the best FPSs to be released in the last couple of years and Black Ops has broken sales records.

2. Postal series

Banned in: Up to 13 countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Sweden

Why: Ever heard of the phrase “Going postal”? Well, the bright sparks at Run with Scissors games decided it would be a great idea to turn this real-life tragedy into a series of games (and a movie). Postal has gamers taking control of “Postal Dude” first-person shooter style and running amok killing postal workers, civilians and armed NPCs. Run with Scissors followed up the 1997 release with 2003’s Postal 2. Postal 2 faced the most ire of the public, with ramped up violence and drug and terrorist references, however, it was proven that the game could be finished without killing anyone – smart move Run with Scissors. Unfortunately for the developers, this strategy was seen through and 13 countries moved to ban the game. The US Postal Service (USPS) even sued the company to protect its good name, the court case lasted six years!

1. Manhunt series

Banned in: More than seven countries, including Germany, UK and the first game ever to be banned in Ireland under IFCO ratings

Why: Did you ever think playing Half Life 2, “Man, if I got my hands on an anti-gravity gun I could do so much damage?” Well, thankfully, that type of weapon doesn’t exist (or at least not until I can finish the blueprints). Games like Half Life 2 and Doom were fine for simulated violence, using made up monsters, weapons and settings. The Manhunt series on the other hand, allows the player to violently murder characters with household objects and provides accurate descriptions on how to do so with the most ferocity. Trying to argue that this is just video game violence is a little hard in this case and as stated above, it was the first time the Irish Film Censor’s Office (IFCO) had taken provisions to ban a game from being released in Ireland. Owning a copy of the game in New Zealand is illegal!

Adam Renardson

Comments – @ARenardson

Also see – Top 10 Gaming Innovations