Popular Culture

The Most Controversial Video Games of All Time



The video game has moved from humble origins to being one of the pop culture staples. Games like Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series can clear more than $1 billion for their creators. GTA V has raised nearly $800 million in 2 years and that’s just on the strength of legacy sales and multi-player credits. However, like any art form – there are always people looking to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable and today we bring you the 10 most controversial video games of all time.

Postal (The Series)

The Postal series involved going insane and murdering as many people as humanly possible. It was based on the American concept of “going postal” which was inspired by mail workers going into work and then shooting up everyone around them. It’s full of sick humor (you can use a dead cat to silence a shotgun) and promotes endless criminality. The series has been banned in several countries and if you’re caught with a copy in Malaysia – you’re going to be in very serious trouble indeed.

Ethnic Cleansing

Thankfully, while Postal may have caught the public’s imagination, the abysmal Ethnic Cleansing did not. Yes, it’s a game where you get to take on the role of a skinhead or a member of the KKK and then exterminate “inferior races”. We wish we were joking about this but we’re not. Players were sent out to slaughter Hispanics, Jewish people and African Americans before storming “the Yiddish Control Center” and assassinating the Prime Minister of Israel.

Muslim Massacre

Continuing on the theme of overt racism we find ourselves with “Muslim Massacre: The Game of Modern Religious Genocide” in which, as you might have guessed, the aim is to exterminate as many Muslims as possible. Just like Ethnic Cleansing this was a piece of complete crap which sunk beneath the waves before it could offend too many people.

RapeLay (NSFW)

Yes, there’s a game for would-be rapists and rape fantasists. RapeLay is a Japanese game which was released in 2006 in which players are able to play a male character who goes on to stalk and then rape a mother and her daughters. It was banned in numerous countries around the world and is generally considered to be a dreadful game as well as having dreadful content. However, there is a growing body of work which tries to defend the game on the basis that “rape isn’t as bad as murder, and murder is in loads of games” – we’re not convinced.

Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5 was controversial before it was released. The problem was that the game’s trailers showed all the “bad guys” in the game were black and that was enough to fire up a storm in the media. In fact, when the game was released there were plenty of enemies of all colours and all the critics had to admit that the game wasn’t in the slightest bit racist. A storm in a teacup as it were.

Super Columbine Massacre

It takes a serious sicko to think that one of the nation’s most infamous mass murders needed turning into a video game. That’s what they did though. There’s nothing redeeming about this game – it’s not a clever lesson on the impact of violence on a community; it’s a straight up slaughter simulator where you are required to kill kids in a school over and over again. As you can imagine when it was released in 2005 this game was not well received. Its creator Danny Ledonne has found himself pigeon holed into a role defending the games industry for every step over the lines of taste and decency.

Mass Effect

Most of the games on this list deserve to be here. They were unattractive attempts to unleash the worst in people. Mass Effect, on the other hand, is considered to be one of the games industry’s all time greats exploring serious topics and providing incredible game play – so why is it here? Because there was a sex scene in the game; the player’s character can form a relationship and if things go well… they can get down and dirty. The firestorm of criticism that ensued seemed to be from people who’d heard about this but not seen it as there’s only a glimpse of buttock and boob in the scene which is hardly the “porn” it was condemned for being.

Grand Theft Auto (Series)

The GTA series may be among the most successful computer games of all time but they’re seriously controversial. The lead characters are always criminals. They steal, cheat and lie. There was a mod for one game “Hot Coffee” which led to pornographic sex. There’s the ability to sleep with prostitutes and then murder them for their money. They’ve been banned in various countries around the world but a new GTA game will still gross more than $1 billion in a couple of days following release – so there are lot of people out there who think Rockstar has got it right.

Manhunt (Series)

Another Rockstar franchise and another controversy – this one much easier to deal with because the games aren’t anywhere near as good as the GTA series. They’re all about murder. You play a serial killer and get points for inflicting the most violent or interesting deaths you can on other characters in the games. There’s probably nothing wrong with this as fantasy but the games have attracted huge amounts of negative press attention along the way.


We finish with another Rockstar game and this one is unfairly on the list. Bully was a game in which you played the victim of bullying at school and had him slowly gain the respect of and vengeance against its peers. The mass media clearly didn’t play the game before losing the plot and accusing Rockstar of promoting bullying in schools. It was banned in Brazil, the British parliamentarian Keith Vaz demanded that it have its age rating increased from 15 to 18, and in the US Jack Thompson filed a lawsuit to ban the game in Florida.


Melissa Stenson
Melissa Stenson is a senior writer at PopCrunch. She covers movies, tv, and music news. She also writes engaging and fun lists about various pop culture events.

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