15 Video Games That Were Banned For Intriguing Reasons

Video Games

While a number of Americans do not take the video games seriously, the video game industry has been regularly out grossing Hollywood. That is correct, video games are drawing more money than the juggernaut that is film. The advancement of technology, marketing, and the increased popularity of gaming has led to this trend. A lot can be said about video games, but they have come entrenched as part of pop culture within the United States and Internationally as well.

A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we’re good at (or getting better at) and enjoy. In other words, gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.” ― Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World


Throughout the years numerous games have been banned throughout the world for a plethora of reasons. Some of the rationale used can be justified – while others really can cause you to scratch your head based on the logic used to censor a game. The following list was compiled after narrowing down some of the most eye popping games and the rationale for their banning. While not every game is mainstream success, a number will be familiar names in the gaming community. You will be stunned that #15 and #1 on the list were ever published in the first place!

“If only I could handle my problems like a video-game style battle against a boss. But there are no power-ups in real life. No FTW moment when I can declare total pwnage. I don’t even know who the bad guys are.” ― Kat Kruger, The Night Has Claws

Here is the list of 15 Video Games that were banned for intriguing reasons!

15. KZ Manager Millennium

According to IGN it was the 2001 “Most Unnecessary Game of the Year” with good reason. This game was banned in Germany as the player take on the role of a Nazi concentration  camp manager, where you “manage” prisoners who are either Jews or Gypsies….If that’s not enough, the game blatantly spreads white supremacist messaging on the Graphical User Interface (as if the intent wasn’t already clear enough).  The game rewards you for executions and is commonly ranked as the most offensive game of all time.


Sadly the game released numerous versions throughout the 90s with the last record release coming in the year 2000. KZ Manager will go down as a stain on the video game industry and is the most justified banning on the list, considering the human rights atrocities that were enacted at death camps throughout Europe. As expected little has been heard from the developing team since the last version of KZ Manager was released.

14. Football Manager 2005

I know you’re thinking, really? Football Manager is the most critically and financially successful Soccer gaming series in the world. In actuality it is one of the most successful sports gaming franchises in the world and is the leader of sports management simulation games for international sales. However, the 2005 edition of the game created a stir in China as it recognized Tibet as an independent nation – directly leading to a ban of the game.


Soon after the banning Sports Interactive released an edited version worldwide that no longer recognized Tibet as being an independent nation. China would lift the ban on the game – allowing for Football Manager 2005 to again be sold within China. The economic might of China definitely played a role in SI changing their opinion on Tibet, yet this remains one of the most politically motivated ban on the list.


13. Every Shooting Game In Venezuela

The most common, yet unproven critique of violent video games is that they lead to real life violence in society. While that narrative has been largely debunked that did not stop the country of Venezuela from announcing in November 2009 that it would ban every game that contained shooting from being rented, sold, or distributed within the country. Definitely an interesting approach in order to reduce violence in an authoritarian led country.


As one could have guessed, the ban on video games has not helped solved the issues of violence within Venezuela. Data shows the country has become even more violent in recent years, several measures show the country now sits within the top three most violent countries within Latin America. It’s safe to say the nature of the video games sold within the country have no correlation with the amount of actual violence among the populace.


12. Counter Strike

A very popular first person shooter series that has been in production since 1999. The original game in the series has been banned in Brazil since January 2008. After fans published a mod that depicted a Brazilian ghetto the government began restricting the retail sale of the game claiming the game, “brings imminent stimulus to the subversion of the social order, attempting against the democratic and rightful state and against the public safety.”


Brazil is one of the largest consumers of videogames in the country – despite the high tax burden on games in the country. Yet, this odd banning is another case of how countries around the world see the industry and how it could possibly impact consumers. The timing of the ban was also strange in this case coming nearly a decade after the original release of Counter Strike.


11. Mass Effect

The Mass Effect series is one of the most popular new video game franchises over the last decade. The science fiction adventure story allows the player to become Commander Sheppard whose goal is to save the known Universe from a terrible new threat. So what led to Mass Effect being banned in Singapore? Graphic violence? Language? No, the possibility that an alien character by the name of Liara could have lesbian sex with the player character if a certain storyline is followed (The storyline makes sense if you play the game).


Singapore has a history of harsh restrictions against the gay community and that extended to the video game realm. While the success of the Mass Effect franchise was not hampered by the banning in Singapore – in fact public outcry resulted in the ban being lifted. Currently, Mass Effect is gearing up for its newest release named Andromeda.  


10. The Darkness

The Darkness is a first person shooter where the player uses guns and his newly found demonic powers to vanquish enemies. As seen with Mass Effect, Singapore also banned The Darkness as well. The rationale was more sensible as they were worried of concerns of “excessive graphic violence.” There is no doubting that the game does indeed have quite a bit of graphic violence – but that isn’t the entire story.


Soon after the game was banned in Singapore, the Playstation 3 ban was lifted. Oddly, the Xbox 360 version remained banned. It’s highly unlikely that this was a simple oversight and the Playstation version was no different than the content found in the Xbox version. It leads some to believe a bribe may have happened to remove the ban. Would Sony care that much for one game? Who knows, but it does make the Xbox 360 ban to be quite intriguing.


9. Homefront

Homefront is understandably banned in South Korea. The game depicts an alternate reality scenario where a unified Korea attacks mainland United States after Kim Jong-un united the country under northern rule and conquered Japan as well. The game was released when tension of the Korean peninsula was elevated bringing in a wall of controversy and speculation. Japan censored any names referencing North Korea and its leaders while South Korea decided to have nothing to do with the game in its entirety.


South Korea was not pleased with the game depicting an united Korea under the rule of the north – nor were they willing to antagonize North Korea with what would be seen as propaganda. Despite the massive controversy surrounding the game, Homefront: The Revolution is a sequel that is to be released in May of this year. It’s safe to say that similar censorship and bans are in store for that release as well.


8. Spec Ops: The Line

This game is one of many banned within the United Arab Emirates – thanks to the country’s strict National Media Council. Yet, Sec Ops: The Line has received the most strict of bans within the UAE. Evidently the UAE took exception to the depiction of a war torn Dubai and how the city was portrayed within the context of the main story arc. The extremes the NMC went to ban the game is what’s most intriguing about this story.


The government branch went as far as banning the official website of the game within UAE – yet they didn’t stop there either. The NMC stopped the distribution in neighboring countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. They weren’t done there either – they were successful in stopping the distribution of the game in Jordan and Lebanon as well. It’s safe to say they really did not appreciate the games premise of presenting a ravaged Dubai.


7. The Punisher

While never officially banned, the 2005 release was forced alter the game to keep from getting AO rating in the United States for violence. Developers Volition, Inc had to alter the game for releases in Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom also for the extreme nature of the graphic content. Actions that aren’t very common for video game releases – especially within the United States. What led to the controversy surrounding The Punisher?


The gruesome depictions of torture and the nature of the executions were not only “unique” but definitely caught the attention of rating boards internationally. Within the game, The Punisher uses what governments like to call “enhanced interrogation” measures to get information from victims – the rest of the world commonly refers to these actions as torture. Just a look at several scenes from the game informs you of how far the game takes the scenes.


6. Manhunt

The successful publishers Rockstar Games are known for the controversy their games create, Manhunt is absolutely no different. The game was banned in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, and Russia. To understand why would only take playing a portion of the game to understand the graphic and sadistic nature of the gameplay. The storyline itself was enough to turn the stomach of those who wanted to censor the violence in all video games.


Despite the controversy surrounding the game, Manhunt received generally favorable reception from critics and gamers. Many were willing to speak about the grotesque violence and admit that the game definitely pushes the envelope, but is made in a way that presents favorable gameplay. Of course that did not stop many from lobbing their critique towards the game and of course its sequel.


5. Manhunt 2

Of course the mere announcement of Manhunt 2 drew criticism from those that couldn’t stand the existence of the first game in the series. Manhunt 2 was so gruesome that it received an Adults Only rating in the United States, forcing Rockstar to make edits to the game (No major gaming platform currently allows AO games on their systems) which would have practically banned the game. The sequel is even more violent with an even darker plot than its predecessor.


The list of countries where Manhunt 2 is banned causes the game to stand out – as it’s rather large! Despite the controversy the game still has a cult following that could one day lead to a Manhunt 3 being published by Rockstar. Many hardcore fans seek out the AO rated version to experience Manhunt 2 at it’s gruesome..umm..purity? Yeah, let’s go with that. It’s hard to imagine another gaming series receiving the mainstream push back that Manhunt has.


4. Battlefield 4

Back to a somewhat lighter ban and a familiar country. Battlefield 4 is a first person shooter that battles Call of Duty for the hearts and minds of gamers around the world. Yet, it wasn’t the original release of Battfield 4 that upset China – it was the “China Rising” Downloadable Content (why don’t countries come together to ban all DLC?!). In all seriousness, China did not take the DLC content very well.


China stated the DLC discredited China’s national sovereignty, viewed “China Rising” as a national security risk in the form of a cultural invasion, and encouraged those already owning the game to remove it from their gaming consoles – yeah they really didn’t take it well. They went as far as saying that China had replaced the Soviet Union as the predominant enemy in video games, which isn’t the case at all. There are far more instances of terrorists originating from the Middle East being used as the enemy in video games.


3. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

Tom Clancy has a number of books and a number of tactical video games that were inspired by his writing. Yet Advanced Warfighter 2 upset the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The entirety of the Mexican government was not upset by the publishing of the game, but local officials did not take too kindly to how the antagonists of the story were portrayed within the context of the game.


The game can be found in other Mexican states…but not in Chihuahua. The main gripe was that they felt the city was portrayed in a stereotypical way and hurt tourism to the state as a whole. If you’ve noticed a common theme – countries often invoke bans if they feel video games depict their country in what they see to be an unfavorable manner. At the end of the day, a lot of these bans seem to be a bit of a stretch, this is no exception.


2. EA Sports MMA

In probably the most amusing ban to make the list comes from the world of Mixed Martial Arts. With this being the second sports title to make the list, there must be a long drawn out reason for why Denmark wanted nothing to do with a MMA game, right?! That’s unfortunately not exactly the case, Denmark doesn’t have a problem with MMA nor with EA Sports in general – they disliked a certain product being advertised within the game.


Denmark has a law where it is illegal to market specific energy drinks – EA refused to remove the ads and thus the game was banned in Denmark. Yes, energy drinks have been scientifically proven to be slightly more healthy than eating paint, but banning a game over energy drinks is quite new. EA Sports is a gaming powerhouse, so the ad revenue they were receiving probably outweighed the sells they would have made in Denmark. Either way it makes for an interesting story!


1. RapeLay

Wait, what? Yes, I promised unbelievable stories for both 15 and 1…so here we are. While not officially banned by a country – RapeLay has been banned from being sold on a number of outlets. Shockingly this wasn’t the first brutal rape game made by developers Illusion, in 2002 (4 years before RapeLay) the Japanese team released Battle Raper as well. I’ll save myself from describing the game, but it’s as equally disturbing as this title.


The concept of this game? It’s quite self explanatory…the player disgustingly stalks and rapes women. Thankfully the game received push back in Japan and internationally. The high production values in the game showed just how sick and thought out the release was. RapeLay and KZ Manager are vile productions that should have never seen the light of day – hopefully their disturbing nature will not be seen in the mainstream community again.