Violence in video games is one of the most enduring controversies of the 20th and 21st centuries. For decades, video games have been stereotyped as violent. While that's certainly not always the case, there are hundreds of brawlers, shoot-em-ups and fighting games that allow you to commit massive cartoonish violence against every lifeform you encounter. It's not rare for a game's good-hearted protagonist, who's just out to save his friends, to be soaked head-to-toe in blood by the game's end. But some games let you decide whether to deal with those that get in your way with ruthless deadly force, or to show mercy and deal with enemies non-lethally. Others let you use stealth and run your way out of danger, or talk your way out trouble with your honeyed words.
Sometimes this ability to choose who lives and who dies changes gameplay and storyline, and other times you can even go through the entire game without taking a life. A chance to play the pacifist is even more surprising when the game is usually quite filled with cold-blooded murder. While some gamers prefer to break down doors screaming, beating their chests and with guns blazing everywhere, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake, others prefer manipulation, sneaking, use of a silver tongue or more crafty methods to get what they want. Maybe you want to be like Batman and have a personal "no kill" rule, or maybe you just enjoy the challenge.
Either way, here are 15 violent games that you can beat without killing anybody. Keep in mind there will be major spoilers ahead for each of these games.
In Deus Ex: Human Revolution it was possible to have Adam Jensen go through the entire game without killing anyone, but you were still forced to kill the bosses as part of the story. In the sequel Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, you can take down every single enemy with non-lethal offensive options or by using speech options to talk them down. This restrained style of playthrough even extends to the final boss of the game, Viktor Marchenko, a tool of the Illuminati who you can unceremoniously punch in the face and knock unconscious.
If you make it through without killing a single human entity, you will unlock the "Pacifist" achievement/trophy. Sure, you might be a grizzled protagonist with high-tech cybernetic augmentations and experimental weaponry to maximize your deadliness, but the real goal of having super-powerful weapons is not to use them, right? Right?
The retro/futuristic post-apocalyptic Fallout series is famous for its gritty and darkly humorous settings, as well as its endlessly entertaining choice of guns, lasers, and melee weapons. While it's certainly hard due to the combat-heavy nature of the Wasteland, in several of the games it's possible to win without killing another human being. In Fallout 3, for example, you can complete the main quest and most side quests without killing; the only required violent act is killing a radroach in the tutorial.
In New Vegas, the only complication is Mr. House, who you're expected to kill in three out of the four endings, but you can dispose of him by disconnecting him from his control systems instead (exposure to the air only indirectly kills him). In Fallout 4, you can have a pacifist run, though it requires a silver tongue and good planning skills.
Despite the Dishonored series being almost wholly focused on stealth assassination, there's an achievement called "Clean Hands" for the player adept enough to go through the entire game without murdering anyone. While most of us gave in and gloriously stabbed at least one target and relished in the graphically violent animations, the game also gives you the option to flee or choke them into unconsciousness.
In fact, Dishonored actively encourages gamers to try a pacifist run, since it gets you a better ending and makes the game easier (less guards everywhere). Even Corvo's assassination targets can be disposed of non-lethally, though it usually turns out to be in a horrific way that's much worse than death (electro-shocking their memories away for one of the tamer examples). This pattern is continued in Dishonored 2 for both Corvo and Emily's playthrough.
The first Metal Gear Solid gave you the option to knock out guards with takedowns instead of killing them, but the boss battles always resulted in the death of the boss and, at one point, you have to shoot waves of guards. But when Metal Gear Solid 2 came around, it added a surprising addition to the series: the tranquilizer gun. Since then it's been possible to do entire runs without fatalities and subsequent games have given rewards for minimizing player kills.
In MGS 2, you still "story-kill" two of the bosses. In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, you can avoid killing any of them, but the game still forces you to kill The Boss even if you defeat her through non-lethal means. Metal Gear Solid 4 has no forced kills, becoming the first game in the series to let you do a true pacifist run.
Any fan of Gotham City's Caped Crusader knows that he has a strict "no kill" rule in most incarnations. While many of Batman's brawler attacks do stretch the limits of survivability and, in reality would likely severely injure, maim, or cripple his opponents, the blows inflicted on The Dark Knight would likely do the same, so let's be fair.
In any case, you can make it through these critically acclaimed Batman games without directly taking a life. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City even have Batman (perhaps unwisely) save the lives of his archenemies, including The Joker. The Arkham games go to great lengths to make sure you can't break Batman's "one rule," including putting invisible walls up when you try to push enemies over a ledge. Oh well. If you want a bloodbath, there's always a Punisher game.
There are six possible endings to achieve in Silent Hill: Downpour. To get the best one, it is mandatory not only to have good karma and choose to help others when given the chance, but also to finish the game without killing a single enemy or monster, and sparing the character at the very end. Doing so also awards a shiny "No Kill" trophy.
Still, you are allowed to defend yourself by knocking them down or incapacitating them, and you're still allowed to knock over the Tormented Souls while being chased by the Void in order to slow it down. But given the highly aggressive nature of most of the enemies of Silent Hill, it can be very tricky to not accidentally kill while defending yourself from, say, a hideous monster. Just saying.
Deceptively cute indie role-playing game Undertale follows your character in a world where humans and monsters used to co-exist before a great war drove the monsters underground. You fall underground into the monster's world and encounter many of them along the way. Undertale heavily emphasizes your choice of sparing enemies instead of killing them, or even flirting or making friends with them.
The game features the option for both Pacifist and Genocide runs. A totally pacifist run is necessary to get the "True Ending," by far the happiest one, though some characters will mock you and others will encourage you for playing this way. Meanwhile, a genocide run not only unlocks a ridiculously bad ending, but destroys the game's world and taints future playthroughs.
Unlike other titles on this list, the Thief games are really more about remaining stealthy in the fantasy-steampunk setting and about - well, being a thief – rather than a cold-blooded murderer. In fact, the game encourages it, awarding a Ghost ranking in every mission for stealth-based plays. Often missions require you to not kill anyone on higher difficulties and you're given a blackjack to knock out victims in a single hit for this purpose.
It makes sense: at the end of the day, the goal of Thief is to get in and out with your pockets full of loot, not to burst into an enemy stronghold and genocide the place. Who wants to bother killing a bunch of minimum wage night-shift guards anyway? While you always have the option, you can play through the game without killing them if you're quiet enough.
In the tactical shooter SWAT 4, you play as a member of a SWAT team who is expected to follow procedure and keep casualties to a minimum. As such, the game has fewer lethal weapons than most first-person shooters; you mostly hit people with non-lethal beanbags and restrain them with plastic zip cuffs. To get the perfect score in every given mission, you have to subdue, capture, and detain every single suspect in the game alive.
To do this you need to use the variety of weapons given to you, including a taser, tear gas, flashbangs, a beanbag shotgun, and a paintball gun that shoots pepper spray (yes, really). It's not always easy because there are a lot of armed suspects in SWAT 4 that don't give up easily. Even if you have to use deadly force, you can avoid killing by going for the legs.
You read that right: it's entirely possible to finish Postal 2, perhaps the most violent video game ever made, without actually killing anyone at all. The Postal series is mainly known as a mass murder simulator where you can massacre NPCs with pistols, shotguns, machine guns, knives, chainsaws, explosives, a police baton, and many other weapons. But when you break down the ludicrous plot of the game, it really just follows Postal Dude as he goes about his everyday life.
It's rather difficult, given the rude and hostile people in the town and the occasional gun battles that break out, but you can complete all your tasks without harming other characters by ignoring provocation, running away from battles, or if cornered using non-lethal methods like the stun gun. Playing the game this way unlocks an achievement called, "Thank you for playing, JESUS!"
Limbo's world is filled with death and yet your character doesn't actively kill anyone in the game, likely because you're too focused on surviving. Limbo is all about surviving a world filled with giant spiders, pressure plates, bear traps and other horrors - the deaths are violent, the world is in German Expressionist black and white, and it's creepy and scary as everything.
The plot of Limbo is minimal and interpretations of it are numerous among fans, but what's certain is that you never have any weapons in the game. You have only side-scrolling platforming and your wits to survive an endless barrage of electric saws and bottomless pits. Despite it's violence, Limbo has no offensive choices and any deaths in the game are likely to be your own.
Yes, seriously: Doom is on this list. A game that became notorious for its non-stop first-person shooter violence can actually be won without killing any of the monsters. It seems every bit as ridiculous as if you told someone you could beat Mortal Kombat without brutally dismembering anyone. However, despite the whole point of the game being to dispatch the demonic forces from Hell, it's possible to beat Doom on a pacifist run.
In fact, one of the most coveted achievements in the speedrunning community is called "UV Pacifist," with the UV meaning playing on the highest level, "Ultra-Violence." The objective is to finished each level as quickly as possible without killing any monsters, though tricking them into attacking other monsters or telefraging is permitted.
The character of Faith from Mirror's Edge is supposed to be a "runner" or messenger, not a warrior, even though there are plenty of hostile police and enemies in the gleaming dystopian future in which the game takes place. Faith can use her parkour skills to get through every level and obstacle in the action-adventure platformer without ever harming a soul, which rewards you with the "Test of Faith" achievement.
She doesn't carry a gun, though you do have the option to disarm an opponent and shoot them with their own weapon. You can kill as often as you like, but to get the achievement you have to toss away the firearm and take them out with your fists, or do what Faith does best and run away. Oddly, throwing cops off of rooftops doesn't count against you – just throwing that out there.
Hacking plays a central role in the gameplay of Watch Dogs 2, whether it's hacking to take down enemies, hacking to make noises and engineer distractions, or really pulling out all the trickster stops and finishing a whole mission without ever being detected. The sequel to Ubisoft's first action-adventure hacker vigilante simulator was advertised as allowing the player maximum freedom to play and solve missions however they want. In fact, it's possible to go through the entire game without killing people.
Continuing the tradition of sneaky games that can be won almost entirely through stealth, Watch Dogs 2 went a step beyond the original by allowing more infiltration and thieving. Though as always, the option to go in guns blazing is always there.
The upcoming game Yandere Simulator will let you play as a lovesick anime schoolgirl named Ayano Aishi, whose mission is to keep other girls from getting too much attention from her crush. It's certainly a creative premise, based on the "yandere" trope of someone murderously obsessed with someone else. Over the course of ten weeks, your "yandere" must keep other girls from confessing their love by murdering them through a wide variety of methods.
Or not – you could also turn down the life of a love-crazed psycho killer in favor of the slightly more morally upstanding path of using blackmail and manipulation to take out rivals for Senpai's affection, or even just be straight-up virtuous and play matchmaker by hooking your rivals up with other boys instead. You can even help them out with personal problems in exchange for not pursuing your crush!