Censorship – it’s a hot button issue in the video game world right now. When developers alter their vision to better suit the needs of the market, some gamers treat it like a knife to their heart. But the alternative might just be worse. All around the world, video games have been pulled from store shelves because they were just too much for the community to handle.

Whether that censorship is justified isn’t for us to say (but let’s be fair, it probably isn’t). What is instructive is to examine the games that got banned and try to figure out what pisses people off. In many cases, it’s pretty obvious – intense violence, graphic sex, or unsavory themes. And you’ll certainly see your share of those things in the games that follow. But there are other reasons that games get prohibited from sale, and they’re pretty weird.

RapeLay

RapeLay

Many of the games on this list were banned simply because of cultural misunderstandings. You… can’t say that for RapeLay. The insanely controversial game developed by Japanese studio Illusion was released in 2006 and almost immediately kicked off a firestorm of bad emotions. If you haven’t heard of it, RapeLay puts you in the shoes of a sexual predator and tasks you with stalking and having sex with a mother and her two daughters by force. Needless to say, this is incredibly screwed up and not cool.

RapeLay was banned in multiple countries after release. It’s illegal to sell it in Argentina, Indonesia, and New Zealand. Here in the States, it received an AO rating, which meant that most retailers would not stock it, but you can still get it online.

Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2

Rockstar Games is going to show up on this list a few times, just to warn you in advance. The studio has courted controversy with the Grand Theft Auto games to great success, but when they dipped a toe into the brutal world of snuff porn with the Manhunt games, they got a little more than they bargained for. The first game in the series saw government pushback in New Zealand and other nations, but the second – which amped up the gore and brutality to previously unseen levels – really got hammered. Through the eye.

Manhunt 2 was “refused classification” in the UK – basically meaning it was too screwed up to even get a rating. Rockstar went back in and added some graphical filters to obscure the gore, and the edited version was originally released there. It was banned from sale in Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, as well as South Korea (which also banned the original).

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2o

Mexico has never seen a nationwide ban on any specific video game, but one title got regional authorities so pissed off that they managed to forbid it from being sold. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 isn’t just an insanely long title, it’s also a well-reviewed tactical shooter. Unfortunately, the game’s opening mission doesn’t paint the city of Ciudad Juarez in such a good light.

Your tactical team works with Mexican authorities to clear out guerillas in the city streets, engaging in brutal firefights. The mayor of Juarez wasn’t terribly popular with a video game painting his city as unsafe (despite the rampant real-world drug violence there), and convinced the governor of Chihuahua to order the seizure of any copies of the game in the state and forbid it from being sold.

Postal 2

Postal 2

Many games push the envelope of bad taste, but none push quite as hard as the Postal series. The long-running sandbox titles put you in the shoes of an ordinary Joe trying to run errands only to be driven into a violent, homicidal rage (often by Gary Coleman), and their anarchic sense of humor is definitely an acquired taste. The country of New Zealand, safe to say, never acquired it.

New Zealand’s ban on the game cites “Gross, abhorrent content: Urination, High Impact Violence, Animal Cruelty, Homophobia, Racial, and Ethnic Stereotypes” as the reasoning, and let’s be fair: all of those things are in the game. Hell, there’s even a key bound to taking a piss. The penalty for owning a copy is a $1,400 fine, which could buy you a whole lot of much better games.

Custer's Revenge

Custer’s Revenge

For nearly as long as there have been video games, people have been trying to make them into porn. One of the most notorious smutty games of all time is Custer’s Revenge, which hit the Atari 2600 in 1982. Produced by Canoga Park developer Mystique (who were themselves a subsidiary of an adult movie company), the game cast the player as a horny General Custer with a pixelated boner who had to walk across the screen through a hail of arrows to pork a Native American woman tied to a pole. Classy stuff, right?

When the game was released, it sparked a moral panic, with anti-sex feminist Andrea Dworkin claiming it had “generated many gang rapes of Native American women.” No empirical data backed this up, but several cities floated laws to prohibit the game’s sale. Only one did: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma actually passed a measure making sales of Custer’s Revenge illegal within city limits.

Pokemon Trading Card Game

The Pokemon Trading Card Game

What kind of country would see fit to ban something as innocuous as The Pokemon Trading Card Game? Welcome to Saudi Arabia, folks. The heavily Muslim Middle Eastern nation issued an edict in 2001 banning both the electronic and physical versions of the game from import. Pikachu, the beloved electric Pokemon and his fellow pocket monsters were considered a threat to national security.

Why? Because the symbols used for energy in the game resemble “the star of David, which everyone knows is connected to international Zionism and is Israel’s national emblem.” Promoting Zionism is a big no-no in many Middle Eastern states, for obvious geopolitical reasons. It didn’t matter to the Saudi clerics that the resemblance was unintentional.

Grand Theft Auto 4

Grand Theft Auto

The GTA games have been the target of pushback all over the globe for their glorification of violence and mayhem, but only one country has taken the drastic step of banning every single title in the franchise. That’s Thailand, surprisingly enough. The country is not typically censorious of violence (although they do ban games with adult sexual content), but Rockstar’s cash cow is a special exception due to some real-life consequences.

In 2008, a young man named Polwat Chino hailed a Bangkok taxi and, when it was time to pay for his ride, instead pulled out a knife and stabbed the driver to death. When cops picked him up, Chino blamed Grand Theft Auto for his violent actions, saying “killing seemed easy in the game” and he needed the money to play it (many Thai people do not own their own consoles or computers and instead play at Internet cafes). The government responded by outlawing all of the GTA games in one fell swoop.

Command & Conquer: Generals

Command & Conquer: Generals

A game’s content doesn’t have to be outrageously sexual or violent to draw the ire of government censors. Sometimes all you have to do is blow up a country to get your game banned. Take Command & Conquer: Generals, the real-time strategy game released by Electronic Arts in 2006. The seventh installment in the long-running franchise let players take command of either the United States, China, or a decentralized terrorist force attacking both. Making a play for the Asian market seems like a good idea, but it backfired a bit.

You see, the game’s story mode starts off with a nuclear device being detonated in Beijing, followed by the destruction of the Three Gorges Dam. The sight of legendary Chinese landmarks pissed off that country’s government so much that they issued a blanket ban on the entire series.

Bully

Bully

We told you that you’d see Rockstar on this list more than once. While it’s certainly logical that governments would have problems with the anarchic GTA games or the over-the-top carnage of Manhunt, what could be so awful about Bully, the company’s classic 2006 tale of an English schoolboy trying to navigate the social structures of boarding school?

Ask the government of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost province of Brazil, which brought the hammer down on Bully shortly after the game was released. Their argument was that setting the game in a school would be “potentially harmful” to teenagers. A fine of 1,000 Brazilian reals per day can be levied on anybody selling or even owning the game.

EA Sports MMA

EA Sports MMA

Quick, what’s the weirdest reason for banning a game you can think of? Wrong, this one’s weirder. EA Sports MMA was the video game giant’s 2010 attempt to cash in on the no holds barred fighting craze without getting the UFC license. It featured fighters from the Strikeforce promotion as well as legends like Fedor Emelianenko and Randy Couture, and got decent reviews. Sales were poor, however, as without the UFC name fans didn’t want to take the chance.

So why was it banned in Denmark? Was it the brutal kicks and merciless chokes? Nope. It was the energy drinks. EA Sports MMA featured in-game advertisements for the caffeine and sugar concoctions before bouts, and that’s against that law in that country. Rather than produce an alternate build of the game with those ads removed, EA just chose to let it be banned from sale instead.

The Guy Game

The Guy Game

What would it take to get a game banned in the notoriously free-speech United States? It’s only happened once. We wouldn’t fault you for never having heard of 2004’s The Guy Game – it was the only title ever made by developers Top Heavy Studios, and the Xbox version pulled in a 47 on Metacritic. The gameplay was a bog-standard multiple choice trivia competition, but the hook was that as you answered questions correctly you were rewarded with FMV footage of young women taking their shirts off and letting their boobies bounce free.

Unfortunately for Top Heavy, one of those pairs of naked boobies belonged to a 17 year old girl, and the company was now in violation of child pornography statutes. A lawsuit quickly followed, with a judge in Travis County, Texas issuing an edict forbidding additional copies to be sold. The game was quickly pulled from the market and forgotten.

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