Nearly for as long as people have been playing video games, there have been just as many people that disapprove of or look down on the act of electronic gaming. It’s absolutely unbelievable how much the gaming industry has grown over the past decades and what started as a new innovative way to engage with media has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry.
Gaming has evolved from a niche interest into a mass act and while everyone may not be a dedicated gamer, most people entertain some kind of video game, even if it’s just on their phone. One of the biggest hurdles over the years is the stigma that parents have placed on video games and how they can be an unhelpful distraction or dangerous influence on their children. This point of view has changed a lot along with video games, but there are still titles that crop up that rub parents the wrong way.
19 Duke Nukem 3D
There are many violent first-person shooters that caused alarm for cautious parents, but the Duke Nukem series is one of the few from the ‘90s that actually gives its protagonist a personality. The titular Duke Nukem is a crude, woman-loving brute. As much as he’s firing off weapons, he’s also on the hunt to romance and save bikini-clad ladies and he even visits a strip club. Duke Nukem 3D embraces all of these baser instincts to the extreme.
18 Postal Series
Much like the Manhunt games, the Postal series is all about over the top violence and psychotic tendencies. It’s brutal in the same disturbing, realistic ways that Manhunt is, but on top of that Postal also pushes a very anti-law agenda that parents could view as dangerous. The bulk of the violence in the game is done against either people of authority or innocent civilians, which paints the picture of a anti-hero that parents weren’t crazy about.
A game with such a silly pun-based title like Carmageddon can’t possibly be evil, can it? In the ‘90s, most watchdog parents gravitated towards video games that were in the fighter genre, but Carmageddon took them by surprise since it was a racing title with a mature streak. Carmageddon is a violent spin on traditional racer that allows you to plow through pedestrians, small animals, and commit some very questionable acts.
16 Wolfenstein 3D
Doom and Wolfenstein 3D went hand-in-hand as the controversial first-person shooters of the 1990s. Both of these games are violent in very similar ways, but Wolfenstein inherently makes itself more controversial since it revolves around the execution of Nazis. If that wasn’t enough, the final boss is a re-animated Adolf, which is an easy way to stand out. There may currently be modern takes on Wolfenstein out there, but the sheer premise of the shooter was enough to have many parents ban it.
15 Dead Or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball
Tecmo’s Dead or Alive fighting series was already controversial for its heavy sexualization of its female characters and the ridiculous depiction of their bodies. The main titles in the series go out of their way to exploit these female characters, but Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball is the culmination of this thinking. This title removes the fighting entirely in favor of scantily clad beach volleyball, something that was a small aspect of previous titles. This game doesn’t hide what it is, which also makes it an easy “no” from parents.
14 Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Any shooter that’s out there is going to raise concern for some paranoid parents, but the Call of Duty games are especially problematic for some since they deal in realistic depictions of armed combat. This isn’t some hellscape, it’s the real world. However, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was a particular subject of controversy due to an optional mission that has you enact a massacre at an airport. The highly disturbing material, in spite of the option to skip it, seemed gratuitous to many and brought unwanted attention to the title’s brutality.
13 Leisure Suit Larry Series
Sierra Entertainment was a major pioneer in the field of point-and-click adventure games back in the 1980s and ‘90s. Most of these titles featured fantastical quests of some sort, but their Leisure Suit Larry franchise was surprisingly focused on an oversexed deviant's pursuit to get some. It was especially surprising content for an adventure game, which put parents on alarm. As the series progressed, eventually censored and uncensored versions of the game were released in some markets, but it was still banned completely in others.
12 Grand Theft Auto Series
The original Grand Theft Auto flew somewhat under the radar, but when the series returned for the PlayStation 2 with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, it became a beacon of controversy and the perfect title that parents would be weary about. Sex, drug use, the glorification of crimes, and rampant violence— not just against antagonists, but random pedestrian— gave this series a notorious reputation.
11 Mortal Kombat Series
The ‘90s were admittedly a much simpler time for video games, both in terms of their power and what they were capable of doing, but there were still a litany of titles that flagged the growing art of video games as something that could be “dangerous.” Mortal Kombat wasn’t the first fighting title, but it was heavy in the use of its blood and violence and the first to introduce “Fatality”-like concepts where fighters are actually slain. Parents actually took the title to congress over concerns of where video games were headed.
It’s kind of bizarre that something that’s as inherently as wholesome as the Pokémon series could be something that parents were concerned over, but fear can easily grow out of a place of misunderstanding. Fundamentalist Christian groups flagged the game as promoting Satanic values, which grew into more baseless claims. Stories like this combined with controversial character designs in some cases (Jynx) were enough to make some parents cautious.
9 Conker's Bad Fur Day
Both Rare and Nintendo deserve serious respect for even releasing a title like Conker’s Bad Fur Day in the first place. The title was a spin on Rare’s usual platformer formula, but takes the cutesy Conker character and place him in a Mature-rated video game. The Nintendo 64 had few M-rated titles to begin with and the fact that this one dresses itself up as an innocent game, but is actually filled with profanity, violence, sex, and Saving Private Ryan homages could easily throw some unassuming parents.
8 Night Trap
Sega CD’s FMV-laden video game, Night Trap, has gained an infamous reputation over the years as a result of its hokey aesthetic that hasn’t exactly aged well. The game may be a fun piece of history now, but back in 1992 the title actually outraged a lot of parents. Not only does the title feature many deaths and touch on things like child abuse and sexual content, the fact that it’s presented with actual actors caused even more cause for alarm.
Doom may seem somewhat archaic in nature now, but there’s a reason that the title has stayed within the public consciousness for decades. It’s an integral title in the evolution of first-person shooters, but that also means it was under attack for being one of the pioneers of violent video games. The fact that Doom’s first-person perspective makes it seem like you’re the one committing these violent acts worried parents. It was even a title that was in part blamed for the Columbine High tragedy, which immediately had parents resent it even more.
6 Manhunt Series
As much as video games have evolved in terms of their graphics and processing power, they’ve also become substantially more realistic, which has led to concern over certain titles. Rockstar’s Manhunt games, especially Manhunt 2, are incredibly violent and go to great lengths to be as extreme as possible in disturbing ways. The game allegedly inspired one player to commit an actual murder and the title was outright banned in some markets, like Australia.
5 Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft has become one of the strongest female protagonists in all of gaming, but when the series first debuted in 1996 there was a lot of focus on Lara’s body and sexuality. Rumors of a “Nude Code” started to circulate and some players even made it real via a patch for the PC version. Tomb Raider is a rich series, but it’s easy for parents to make generalizations on such a thing and concentrate on the wrong aspects.
Rockstar Games has always been one to push the envelope and their game Bully became quite the topic of controversy back in 2006. There’s a heavy stretch of violence in the game, but the fact that it’s set within a school and with children creates a very emulatable environment. The title of game alone led parents to believe that it glorifies bullying—and really, it does— and it was only a Teen-rated title, which means that many young gamers could buy it on their own.
Splatterhouse has a certain retro charm now and even looks tame in comparison to some more modern games, but it was still something that worried many parents back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Splatterhouse isn’t just a violent beat-‘em-up platformer, but it embraces its horror aesthetic. It doesn’t shy away from the gore, including on the game’s box art, which made it easy for parents to flag.
Hatred is one of the most recent titles on this list and it’s also one of the few games that’s actually rated AO, Adults Only, which means that it can’t actually be sold in retail stores and presumably kept it as a PC-only title. Hatred has you control someone who’s caught in the fit of a mental breakdown and goes out on a spree that’s very upsetting stuff. There’s also been controversy surrounding the game’s creator and the game was briefly pulled from Steam, all of which are valid reason for parents to be concerned over this release.
1 Pokémon GO
Just like the original Pokémon series spurred some unnecessary controversy, the recent mobile phenomenon, Pokémon GO, has also gone under fire. Due to how augmented reality and geolocation tech is still new and nebulous to a lot of the public, this game appeared to be dangerous to certain parents. CNN reported cautionary stories about how the features in the game were leading to kidnappings in some cases, since the game depends upon exploration of the real world.
These are all of the games that we came across that enraged parents and caused an uproar, but there are even more controversial video games out there! Sound off over your favorites in the comments below!