Video games are fun but often portray themes that are not very family-friendly. Every time there’s a violent crime perpetrated by a minor, one of the first things that every mainstream news outlet starts pointing at are video games. This has made some governments and government agencies more proactive on the subject matter. In their minds, banning the game protects the local population (or at least wins them some political points with their base audience).
With that in mind, here’s a list of five best games that you can’t play in some countries. To make the list as relevant as possible, we’ll list the games that were banned for different reasons (we won’t just go with five games that were banned for violence).
1. Dead Island
When we talk about a banned video game, the first thing that pops into your mind is probably that the main reason for this ban is violence. Well, Dead Island is banned for that exact reason. There are few games with more gore and dismemberment than Dead Island, and any game that portrays it is fighting an uphill battle when it comes to selling it in countries like Germany.
Sure, a strong argument can be made that the game in question is just a simplistic whack-a-mole type of game with zombies as the main antagonist, but it goes even further than that. Some countries, like Germany, have a strong policy against violence in video games. Some would call this a bit hypocritical, seeing as how, in Germany, a 17-year-old can enlist in the army but can’t legally play Call of Duty.
This happens to a lot of Steam games in Germany. You see when sensitive content is in question, Steam can ask you for your age, but they don’t require an official verification. Since Valve cannot provide guarantees that people buying these games aren’t minors, Germany won’t allow these 18+ games.
When it came to Dead Island 2, some concessions had to be made. For instance, while you were allowed to kill zombies in a pretty gruesome fashion, you weren’t allowed to interact with corpses afterward (which you could in a standard version).
2. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Out of all the games on this list, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is probably the title that will surprise you the most. Namely, the game has never been released in China, and unlike other videos that usually portray some sort of sensitive content, this game was banned just for political reasons.
According to some rumors, during the Hong Kong protests, some players used Animal Crossing to spread awareness of the protest, while some were even holding in-game protests (on the same server). While the game was never released in China, there were many “grey” areas where players were actually able to access this content, which only made the Chinese government take a harder stance on the issue. The most common such manner was the acquisition of foreign Nintendo Switches.
As you’ll notice, some other games on this list have made changes that allowed them to become present on the local market, but this is unlikely to be the case with the Animal Crossing franchise. As it currently seems, the franchise will stay banned for a while.
3. Mass Effect
Mass Effect, one of the biggest Sci-Fi video game franchises in history, some would even argue the best gaming trilogy in history, was banned in UAE because it portrayed same-sex intercourse. Other than this, there was also a lot of nudity, substance abuse, and similar behavior, which is contrary to local moral laws. The game was also banned in Singapore.
Now, this is a shame, and if you really want to play it from these countries, the only two ways to do so are piracy or a VPN. Finding one is quite easy in this day and age, so check out this list and pick one you like the most.
Now, while Mass Effect 2 and 3 are still banned, the first Mass Effect game had a similar treatment in Singapore for a short while. Then, it was allowed but rated M18.
While some may see this type of censorship as surprising, we have to remind you that, when it first came out, Mass Effect sex scenes caused a no small amount of controversy in the West, as well. Conservatives argued against nudity and options to have intercourse with alien species, while, on the left, radical feminists argued against the objectification of female characters in the game. The last argument was, of course, absurd since you can play the game as a female character, where male companions would receive the same treatment.
4. Fallout 3
We’ve included this entry because it’s a perfect example of a ban that didn’t stick. In Australia, Fallout 3 was banned due to the portrayal of morphine (Med-X in the game). In other words, this game wasn’t banned because of violence, dissidence, or same-sex intercourse but rather substance abuse.
While the ban was lifted in Australia, the game is still banned in countries like India and Saudi Arabia.
While the portrayal of drug use and addiction was quite disturbing, it wasn’t the only reason why this game was banned. Namely, the game is filled with extreme violence and gore, including decapitation and dismemberment. This, naturally, happens in slow motion and in graphics that were quite photo-realistic at the time.
The game also contained sexual content and themes. Sure, it wasn’t as explicit as in some other games (like GTA) but it was still too much for a lot of countries.
Also, keep in mind that Australia was not the only country where this game was banned. Japan, for instance, found it to be insensitive since one of the mini-nuke catapults was named “The Fat Man” after the bomb that the Americans dropped on Nagasaki.
In other words, whatever reason you come up with for why a game is banned, there’s probably a way in which Fallout 3 ticks the box. The game has explicit content, it’s insensitive and even outright offensive. Still, some might argue that that’s what makes it so fun.
If there was one game on the list that no one would be surprised about, it is the Rockstar’s underrated gem, Bully. This game from 2006 is one of the most controversial games in history, mostly due to its main theme and character.
The ban goes so far that, in Brazil, you can face a serious fine if you’re caught buying or selling this game. This is even more surprising because Brazil is not a country renowned for censorship (like some others on this list). If anything, this is one of the games with the fastest-growing number of internet users and one of the countries with the greatest recent rise in social commerce.
Still, this decision wasn’t random. While the debate is still out about whether video games incite violence, the state psychology society of the country found that the game has topics and themes that may be harmful to teenagers and adults. The aggravating factor was the fact that it all took place in a school, and the government officials found this to be in both bad taste and highly disturbing. The protagonist is also a 15-year-old student, which makes the subject even more problematic.
Now, when it comes to Rockstar, they’re known for this type of content. GTA (their flagship franchise) is a synonym for video game violence, while their games like Manhunt go even a step further.
There Are Many Different Reasons For Censorship
As you can see, different countries have different levels of tolerance when it comes to violent, sexual, and political themes. These sensitivities are often the reflection of the local cultural zeitgeist, which can be an interesting thing, even just as a sociological phenomenon. Either way, the jury on video games and their persuasiveness when it comes to the youngest population is still out, so who knows how this topic might further evolve in the future.