When art gets banned in certain regions of the world, it always brings up a ton of questions: Why was it banned? Was there something reprehensible or insensitive within the art portrayed that is intrinsically offensive to the region from which it was banned? Is someone being exploited by the art in question? Could the work be altered to better suit the regions’ sensibility without compromising its quality or meaning? Is the banned item even really art? All of the questions lead to answers that live on slippery slopes. That last one in particular has been a point of debate among many pop culture critics with regards to video games (by the way, they are art, so let’s just put that one to bed).
Like any other artistic medium the world of video games is no stranger to censorship and bans across the globe. But are these bans justified? Well, while many games are barred from release (or censored) in certain countries for obvious reasons like over-the-top gore and violence, gratuitous questionable content and nudity, or excessive profanity, the stories behind the ban of other games is just downright odd. It makes one wonder why rating systems on video games even exist.
15 BANNED IN SOUTH KOREA: MORTAL KOMBAT (2011)
The Mortal Kombat franchise has had a tumultuous relationship with “watchdog” groups and censors since its inception. A censored version of the game were released when the first entry of the series made the leap from arcade to home console (except for the Sega Genesis version, which kept all the nasty bits). And while several entries of the series have caught a ton of flack across the globe, one ban seems a bit hypocritical in its reasoning.
The ninth game in the series, Mortal Kombat (2011) found itself on the wrong side of South Korean sensors. The game was banned for excessive violence. Now, no one in their right mind would tell you that Mortal Kombat isn’t excessively violent (it is called MORTAL Kombat), but it’s a bit odd that a nation who excels at competitive multiplayer games (some of which are quite violent) would black ball this particular installment.
14 BANNED IN SAUDI ARABIA: POKEMON
Whether you consume by way of playing cards, video games or mobile apps, the Pokemon franchise is dangerously addictive. Once you catch one, well, to quote the tagline of the series, “you gotta catch ‘em all.” The roster of adorable pocket monsters and the seemingly innocuous tournament they battle one another in have captured the hearts of millions (if not billions) of people around the globe, and according to the Saudi Arabian authorities, it’s a big issue.
One concern stems from the idea that these virtual battles may provoke gambling, which is a big no-no in Saudi. The Higher Committee for Scientific Research and Islamic Law has also accused Pokemon of being offensive since some of the cards display religious symbols from various religions. It seems odd that a yellow cartoon rat that shoots lighting at water-spraying turtle monster would cause such an uproar.
13 BANNED IN AUSTRALIA: FALLOUT 3
Australia is well-known for their stringent regulators on video game content. Several games have been banned from the country or edited to meet their standards regarding the level of violence they can depict. But with Bethesda’s monster hit, Fallout 3, the reason for it being barred from “the land down under” has to do with the drugs in the game.
Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) refused to give the game a classification rating, which is a polite way of banning it. The major offense OFLC sited was the various narcotics that could be used within the game. This refusal has for classification has come down of games before. Both Narc and Blitz: the League were denied for the same reason. But never has a game with such a high profile faced this scrutiny. Luckily for Australian fans, Bethesda edited the game for classification, which it got.
12 BANNED FROM BRAZIL: GTA: EPISODES FROM LIBERTY CITY
The devil is in the details -- and sometimes those details carry an infectious tune. A civilian court in San Paulo, Brazil sued Rockstar for copyright infringement. As it turns out there was a song in the expansion for Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City that used a sample of the song "Bota o Dedinho pro Alto" by composer Hamilton Lourenço da Silva without permission.
What seemed to be a glaring oversight, wound up becoming a huge ordeal. The expansion was collected from stores throughout Brazil (and later the rest of the world!) under the pressure of a massive fine to the publisher each day the expansion was sold. Rockstar would later go on to produce papers that gave them permission to use the song, which were rendered moot as they were not signed by the artists.
11 BANNED IN MALAYSIA: POKEMON GO
Shortly after its release, a myriad of stories regarding Pokémon Go players being assaulted in dark alleys or being lead into dangerous situations started to pop up on several news feeds. Both children and adults were cited as being careless in their pursuit of various Pokémon in the augmented reality game, which made many casual fans wonder if catching a Pikachu was worth putting yourself in harm’s way.
Muslim leaders in Malaysia saw this reckless behavior as a problem and levied a ban against the game. Other issues regarding the use of god-like power, certain iconography, and the potential for gambling as factors for the proposed ban. Now while this technically wasn’t a strict ban, the warning from leading officials was enough to deter many players.
10 BANNED IN VIETNAM: MEGA MAN 5
What’s in a name? Apparently a lot when it comes to a nation that has seen dark times in their history at the hands of horrific chemical agents and weapons. Capcom’s Mega Man 5 found itself under fire in Vietnam for its inclusion of the villain Napalm Man, a moniker that would seem to be a little too on-the-nose.
While one could certainly empathize with the people of Vietnam’s plight and how the name of this particular character would drum up plenty of bad memories and emotion scars in the years after The Vietnam War, we have to wonder why Capcom just didn’t change the character’s name. Games from this era were often altered (sometimes accidentally) to appeal to audiences in other nations. Why not just Napalm Man to Fire Man or Burn Man or literally any number of [insert word] man names that were up for grabs.
9 BANNED IN UAE: DARKSIDERS
Some bans on pop art are so half-hearted they make us wonder why they exist in the first place. When THQ’s Darksiders was released in the United Arab Emirates, officials decided to ban the game due to the religious imagery and story…well, sort of. The UAE only banned physical copies of the game, but zero action was taken against the digital version. What’s even stranger, when its sequel (a game in which you literally play as the embodiment of Death) was released, zero measures were taken against it.
No one seemed to mind, at least not where it counted. Who’s to say why the disc-based version of the first game was so heavily scrutinized but the digital version and the sequel slipped by the censors. Maybe whoever was on the committee who handles these things just had a thing against the way Joe Madureira designs boots (which is just way too big).
8 BANNED...WELL, EVERYWHERE: MANHUNT 2
Publisher Rockstar is no stranger to controversy. It seems that they almost welcome it seeing as how just about every game in their catalogue gets hemmed up by censors in various nations. But no Rockstar game has ever been banned in so many different countries than their stealth-horror/murder simulator, Manhunt 2.
The fact that Manhunt 2 was banned from a particular country isn’t so shocking. The game is brimming with extreme violence, gore, and simulated torture (one such moment involves a crow bar and a man’s head, which we will not get into, but believe us: it ain’t pretty). But what is odd about the ban is the sheer number of countries that deemed Manhunt 2 too reprehensible. New Zealand, The United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, The Republic of Ireland, and Germany (among others) all took a hard pass on Manhunt 2. Good thing for them, the game wasn’t that great.
7 BANNED IN DENMARK: EA SPORTS MMA
Mixed Martial Arts has become inundated with sponsors and company branding, just like every other professional sport on the planet. There is very little to discern between the trunks of a fighter in the Octagon and the hood of a NASCAR hood whipping around a speedway. While some of the product placement seen in professional sports is questionable at best (we doubt NFL quarterbacks are really eating burgers from Carl’s Jr. regularly), none have caused a video game to be banned, that is until Denmark official reviewed EA Sports MMA.
Energy drinks have been hotly debated in the United State, but certain European nations have taken a stance against beverages like Red Bull and Monster and deemed them a public hazard. Denmark went as far as to ban the game for having endorsements for these liquid pick-me-ups.
6 BANNED IN AUSTRALIA: MARC ECKO'S GETTING UP
One of the oddest reasons for banning a video game has nothing to do with violence, sex, profanity, or even perceived offensive names and iconography. In the case of Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure (which if for any reason, should have been banned for having such a long name) wound up in the crosshairs of Australia’s Classification Review Board for glorifying graffiti.
That’s right. A piece of art that simulates the production what many consider art, was struck down by Australian offices for glorifying…well, art. You can’t make stuff like this up. It’s a twist of logic. Even if graffiti is an “epidemic” in said country, surely there are bigger issues that could be addressed. We understand not wanting to glorify murder or other heinous crimes, but this a little much.
5 BANNED IN THAILAND: GRAND THEFT AUTO 4
Life often imitates art, and usually it’s innocent fun. Kids pretend to be Power Rangers as they clumsily kick and punch stuffed animals in their bedrooms. Adults picture a lightsaber sparking in their hand every time they open an umbrella. Most of these little moments are harmless, but sometimes, they can go too far and lead to tragedy. While it’s hard to blame art to be the catalyst for someone suffering mental illness to do something horrible, that’s exactly what the Thai government did when a young man robbed and shot a taxi driver in Bangkok.
Police official claim that the culprit had become obsessed with Grand Theft Auto 4, the most recent installment Rockstar’s flagship series at the time of the incident. Thailand took action against the game and had it removed from shelves to deter further copycat killers. The follow up entry, however, is availed digitally.
4 BANNED IN BRAZIL: BULLY
Rockstar’s 2006 game, Bully is often described as “Grand Theft Auto Light.” The game is an open world delinquency-simulator that doesn’t have all the blood and bullets of its more mature big brother, but still retains a darker tone. Bully follows the exploits of a rebellious teenager working his way up the social ladder to become the big guy on campus in a private school.
The game is fun, humorous and shines a light on the idea that private boarding academies are, by and large, rife with the same issues as public schools. A Brazilian judge, however, did not find humor in the biting satire. The fact that such delinquency was occurring in a school did not sit well with Judge Flavio Rabello. And despite the mild T rating by the ESRB, Bully was banned in Rio Grande do Sul.
3 BANNED IN BRAZIL: DUKE NUKEM 3D
Duke Nukem is a character not known for being the most politically correct or the cuddliest. Not to mention his games are filled with misogyny, swearing, and graphic violence. While most of Duke’s shtick is an obvious satire of the toxic masculinity action film heroes of ‘80s and ‘90s often exuded, you’d think his blatant sexism would be the reason Duke Nukem 3D would get banned. Not so.
In 1999, a man killed three people and injured eight more in Brazil. After the incident, the Brazilian government banned Duke Nukem 3D (along with five other games of its ilk) for influencing the killer’s motivation. Electronic retailers were ordered to turn in copies of the game in droves. An incident like this does bring up the debate about art reflecting life or the other way around, but one could argue that Duke Nukem is too dumb to be taken seriously.
2 BANNED IN BRAZIL: EVERQUEST
Many games get banned because they push the envelope with regards to good taste. Before the ESRB rating system was in place, video game content was rarely regulated for better or worse. When games grew more mature, guidelines (some of which seem rather arbitrary) were put into place. Since their inspection in 1994, the ESRB (which self-regulates video games in the US) has been doling out ratings on every game that gets a wide release. Other countries have similar programs, but sometimes, games fall through the cracks or are banned when public opinion suddenly changes.
The MMORPG, Everquest was released worldwide in 1999, but almost a decade later in October of 2007, the Brazilian federal court ruled that the game encouraged "the subversion of public order" due to the fact that players could choose to be “good” or “evil” within the fantasy world. Guess they never played Dungeons & Dragons.
1 BANNED IN GERMANY: DEAD RISING
Capcom’s Dead Rising franchise has given us entries that are a strange mix of open-world adventures, material management simulation, and over-the-top gorefests. While the first two major entries of the series were stylized in the a way that made them look more like a cartoon, Dead Rising 3 was a huge leap forward in realistic graphics and the portrayal of violence toward the undead (zombies are…well, were people, too, right?).
German officials seem to think so. All three entries of Dead Rising have either been banned or censored in Deutschland for having “human-like” enemies. With Germany being one of the largest video game markets in Europe, it’s odd to think that games that are as silly as Dead Rising make such a big stink. Can’t they laugh at beating a zombie to death with a wiffle ball bat like the rest of the world?