Not all video games are for kids. Just because your five-year-old nephew loves playing Grand Theft Auto, doesn't mean it is a great choice. There are games for kids that seem like a good choice, though. Picking up a game with a cute animal on the box should be all rainbows and sunshine. Once you get playing, though, you never know what weird and disturbing turns the stories in kids' video games can take. Games we played as kids are terrifying and strange in retrospect, and games we might buy for kids today are terrifying and strange on purpose.
Games like Zelda, Mario and Pokémon, should be a great introduction to video games for kids, but you will learn here that Nintendo is one of the worst offenders. Next time you try to pick out a cute, harmless video game, think about how weird it could actually be. A game might start off fun, but weird moments and inappropriate stories are just a click away.
Here are 15 of the weirdest, grossest, and most inappropriate stories in kids games. Kids can handle a lot, but this stuff is creepy and strange enough to put off gamers of any age. If you're into undead children, terrifying animatronic monsters, animal torture, and lasting nightmares, then these games might just be for you. Just, think twice about giving them to impressionable youngsters.
Ocarina of Time, for the Nintendo 64, has enough nostalgia for parents and enough adventure for kids— but there are some aspects of this particular Zelda game that are terrifying for any age. The cartoony, fun world of Hyrule goes from being a fairy and chicken filled wonderland to something much more sinister. This is most obvious in the nightmare “Bottom of the Well” level. You have to go underground to find out what lies under Kakariko Village, a cute town filled with chickens and friendly characters. Should be fun, right? Nope. You have to traverse a poisonous river, into a cavern filled with skeletons, bones, and whispering spirits. The dungeon is an underground prison cell/torture chamber full of dark secrets and bloody floors. You end with fighting a terrifying hunchback albino monster. Zelda might seem cute, but under the surface, it’s pretty dark and definitely not for kids.
Naughty Bear is rated Teen, at least, but that won’t stop kids and parents from being tricked by the idea of cute, fluffy teddy bears getting into trouble. It could be a cute idea, but the way Naughty Bear does it, it’s not cute at all. Naughty Bear is violent and disturbing. Seeing a cuddly toy commit murder is messed up. In this game, you play as a teddy bear gone bad, and by bad we mean sociopathic and insanely violent. You can slam people in car doors, bash in their heads with golf clubs, and force them to commit suicide. The game is not full of blood and gore, but the disturbing themes are enough to make this cute bear into on elf the worst video game villains. Kids will be ditching their teddy bears after seeing the disturbing things Naughty Bear can do.
When this game was in development for the Sega Genesis, it probably wasn’t considered weird or creepy at all. In retrospect, it seems pretty inappropriate. Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker is based on the King of Pop’s successful career and his music videos and film for Moonwalker. You have to play through the game as Michael Jackson, and force characters to break into dance. You can fight criminals (presumably Smooth Criminals) with your flashy dance moves, including Michael Jackson’s “Special Move.” There is a lot of crotch grabbing, but what really ups the creepiness factor is the other objects in the game— rescue little kids hiding in closets. Michael Jackson pulling little kids out of closets and using his “special dance moves” takes on a new level of ick these days. The Michael Jackson soundtrack can’t save this game from being really inappropriate.
For all Zelda seems to be an all-ages franchise, more than one Zelda game definitely belongs on this list. It would be easy to make a puzzle, dungeon crawl game that did not include horrifying elements, but Zelda does not seem to have seen that memo. In Twilight Princess, Link goes through some weird stuff. He turns into a wolf, meets a creepy floating elf, and more! Things get really dark when Link seems to be banished to the underworld. First, Link floats through an endless void of nothingness, which is disturbing but overall not so bad. Next, Link gets to encounter demonic versions of his childhood friends and his own doppelganger. That scene ends with Link screaming directly into the camera, as if that’s not nightmare fuel for kids. Unfortunately, this game does not get any less creepy after that.
Manic Mansion is an old point and click adventure game from LucasArts. Kids, love Star Wars, adventure, and cartoony horror. This game should be a win for kids, and overall it seems like it is. Especially after the pass from Nintendo’s rigorous censorship policies back in the day, you might expect this cartoony horror game to be perfect for youngsters. That’s where you’re wrong. Apparently, the creators of Manic Mansion think that the torture and murder of small animals are appropriate for a kid-oriented game. As you explore the mansion and complete puzzles, you are suddenly faced with several options on what to do with a small hamster. One of the options is to take it downstairs and microwave it. Then, you sit and watch as the hamster explodes and the game says it’s “totally awesome!” Hopefully, your kids aren’t permanently scarred by Sociopath: The Video Game.
We’ve all heard of lemmings in the real world, cute little animals who follow each other around. That could be a cute video game for kids, right? It is, mostly. The bulk of the game is little matching lemmings having all sorts of wacky adventures. Sure, they die, but it’s even a cute death that ends in a little firework of pixels. The world is full of bright colors, fluffy clouds, and waterfalls. Eventually, though, you will encounter a level that makes all the cute lemmings run in horror. Your little lemmings are trapped in a dark cave, trying to escape a Cthulu-esque squid and climb over giant piles of bones, while avoiding the blood dripping from the ceiling. This level is meant to be a nod to Amiga fans, because it’s recycled graphics from Menace. Amiga probably should have considered a more age-appropriate easter egg. (with less blood).
Kirby is the most adorable of all the Nintendo franchises. What isn’t there to love about a tiny pink fluff ball with endless outfits? Looking at Kirby, it is easy to assume that any game starring this smiling ball of bubble gum would be virtually harmless. Besides the fact that Kirby gains power by literally eating other characters, that is mostly true. In Kirby’s Dreamland 3, though, there is some highly questionable content. The final boss in this game is Zero, a gigantic eyeball monster that shoots you with eyeball blood. The more you beat up on the eyeball boss, the more blood it showers you with from its battered cornea. The worst part is actually beating it. Instead of a pleasant ending to this final boss battle, the eyeball pupil separates from the giant eyeball, and you have one last bloody battle before it explodes in a shower of gore.
Super Paper Mario seems like a perfect choice for kids. What could possibly go wrong with a little-overalled plumber going on adventures through an animated sewer? Besides some mildly choppy piranha plants, Mario is a great choice for all ages. Super Paper Mario, though, has some hidden darkness in the cutest, most unexpected places. In this arts-and-crafts Mario world, you will meet a lot of fun, animated characters. There is some initial weirdness because the villain is threatening to force Princess Peach to get married and suck up the entire Mario universe into an endless void, but that’s not even the tip of this creepy iceberg. The pigtailed Mimi is the cutest character in the game, until she reveals her true form: a horrible giant spider that unfurls from the tiny body of the cute little girl. Mario and Kafka just don’t mix.
Mario, like Zelda, has a few games that seem cute and harmless, but are actual insane, disturbing, and definitely not kid-appropriate. Super Mario Sunshine, at first glance, is just another cute Mario game. This game introduces a new villain, Gooper Blooper. To defeat Cooper Blooper, you need to fight him and pop out the cork that’s stuck in his giant squid mouth. He flies away on a plume of ink, and that could very easily have been the end of poor Gooper…but, of course, Nintendo needed to stick around and make it weird. The next step is to slowly dismember the squid monster, limb by limb, as it screams and cries. To make things worse, this happens a couple of times in the game because one tortuous scene of animal dismemberment just wasn't enough. Any kid who loves this game can wave goodbye to a career in Ocean Science.
Space Station Silicon Valley starts off with an interesting premise: “In the year 3000 there are no petting zoos….” You play as a cute little microchip, jumping between colorful animals on a space station. Once you get into the game, it is revealed that the animals actually staged an Animal Farm coup on the space station and are now the ruling class. Uh, Okay. If that isn’t weird enough, get ready for the real goal of the game: collecting severed human heads. Apparently, this animal takeover was not of the peaceful variety. Your goal is to explore the landscape, find all the recently deceased scientists, and collect their severed heads. Suddenly, an animal space station is not such a cute idea. Maybe we should rethink sending dogs and monkeys to space, and rethink letting kids play this video game.
Kid Icarus definitely sounds like it’s for kids, and it looks harmless. However, once you get into the gameplay things start to get a little strange. The religious overtones are just the beginning of the weirdness in this series of games. You play as Pit, and your goal is to traverse three realms —the underworld, overworld, and sky world — in order to find power items. You can do all sorts of fun, kid-friendly things, like attack nests of monsters to harvest their life source, shop on the black market for hearts (not “lives,” actual monster hearts), and test your endurance in terrifying labyrinths full of flying stone monsters. The original game culminates in battling an enraged, evil Medusa in order to save “Heaven.” If you’re lucky, the queen will turn you into a full-grown angel, which isn’t creepy at all.
Five Nights At Freddy’s has proven to be extremely appealing to kids. That comes as no surprise, considering it’s a Night At The Museum meets Chuck E. Cheese Horrorfest. What kids and parents might not realize, though, is that this game is seriously inappropriate. It might seem cute and harmless at first, maybe a little edgy, but once you get into the gameplay and backstory, things get really dark. You play as a security guard, who is suddenly faced with the horror of animatronics come to life. You have to defend yourself, keeping away from the deadly animatronics until morning comes and magics them back into make believe. Between real fear, creepy robots, and animatronics staring at you straight into the camera with their creepy, lifeless eyes, it’s amazing that this game has spurned sequels and is so popular with kids.
Nintendo games are usually kid-friendly, but not always— a fact proven by Metroid Fusion. The Metroid games have always been dark, but Metroid Fusion takes that darkness to a new level. The initial play through of the game is fine. Maybe a little more violent than some would expect, but not bad. Then, you hop into an elevator to move on to the next level, and suddenly, you disappear. The game doesn't follow you down in the elevator. Instead, you pan over to see your character moving around, out of your control. Confusion sets in, and then terror, as your character turns and looks at you with the lifeless eyes of a green demon face. You spend the rest of the game trying to avoid and escape this evil version of yourself, which is creepy and weird. Thanks for the nightmares, Metroid.
A line of RPG’s geared toward younger players? Sounds great! Adventures, cute animals, and hours of unbridled video game fun? Even better! Almost every video game lover has fond memories of Pokémon, but once you start considering certain aspects of the games and the Pokemon Universe, things start to get a little weird. The Pokémon games are full of questionable content, starting with the fact that the entire premise is about sending ten-year-old kids out on adventures by themselves. You would think that between scientists, parents, and the adventuring kids in question, someone would have pointed out the obvious dangers. What do these kids get up to on their adventures, you ask? Well, basically cockfighting but with Pokémon. Between Pokémon battles, dangerous gyms, fighting huge violent gangs, and trying to save the world, Pokémon is pretty inappropriate. Don’t even get me started on the creepiness of Pokémon Breeding….
It has to be obvious now that quite a few Zelda games are too creepy for kids, but Majora’s Mask might be the worst offender in the Zelda franchise. This game is dark all the way through, and creepy enough to impress adult fans. This story is definitely not for kids, even though Zelda is marketed to a younger audience that loves puzzles and adventure. In Majora’s Mask, the entire world is preparing for the end times. Characters cower in fear and try to deal with the concept of death, which is not the upbeat Zelda game kids are looking for. Link is basically living through a horror movie, and Majora’s Mask is a lot scarier than any Mask worn by Jim Carey. Link screams as the mask forces him into shapes, and he sacrifices himself to save the world. If you have played this game, you know how creepy it gets.