Video game developers are located all over the world. Thanks to different global perspectives, we have a broad range of games to play. Japan brought us the Final Fantasy series, while CD Projekt Red blessed us with the video game adaptation of The Witcher novels by Andrzej Sapkowski. With the internet putting us closer to developers and publishers, we often follow game development as it happens. When changes are made to games brought to America, players are quick to call out localized ports cutting out content, or censoring elements from their original versions.
Video game censorship is a sensitive subject to many American gamers because they want what the game the developer intended on releasing. Under the “Freedom of Speech” under the First Amendment, America’s laws have been more forgiving of video game content. Many gamers fail to consider how our games are censored in other countries or outright banned from release. In 1981, the Philippines banned all video games, calling them unproductive and destructive to the youth.
Games are often changed so that other countries can have access to our games. Not all countries may not be so free to discuss any sensitive cultural topics. With a few changes to the amount of violence or steamy content, the country’s rating boards can localize games to meet their standards. Gamers in those countries live on until they realize that the game may have been censored in their own country.
Our list compiles video games made by American developers that had content censored in countries around the world.
Naughty Dog's The Last of Us contains several violent scenes that made many gamers feel uncomfortable. All countries branded the game with a Mature rating, but the gore varies depending on the country. Without warning, the developer decided to censor the violence in all of Europe, mostly due to Germany's censorship laws. The Last of Us remains uncensored in North and South America. Certain executions are not as explosive as in the American version. No body parts explode or can be dismembered, and the amount of blood is reduced.
Luckily for European players, only the multiplayer version was censored. Gamers who prefer a single-player experience can still enjoy all of the blood and gore Naughty Dog originally intended to be added to the game.
Kaos Studio’ Homefront takes place in an alternate future where North and South Korea have united to occupy the Western United States. It’s no secret that North and South Korea have a long, tense history. The premise of the game and its advertisement made South Korea uneasy, and it was quickly banned.
In Japan, the game was released, but with several changes. All references to Kim Jong-il were removed from the game’s introduction and called the "Northern Leader." North Korea’s role was entirely replaced with “a certain country to the North.” Though this could be a reference to North Korea, gamers unfamiliar with geography may mistake that Northern country for Canada. The company that localized the game for Japan believed that changing the names was better in the end since it could be interpreted as slander.
Volition’s Saints Row IV continued on the crazy, open-world style of the third sequel. The third game already had to be censored for its amount of violence and steamy content in Australia. In the fourth game, Volition included even more of the violent gameplay that made Saints Row III so successful.
The game was outright rejected by the Australian Review Board. The Review Board explained their reasoning behind the ban, which included using illegal substances as a reward and including an alien probe weapon. Volition had to remove the entire alien narcotic side mission and the offensive weapon to get the game approved. Australian gamers were only offered the censored version of Saints Row IV unless they imported a more expensive version from overseas.
Silent Hill Homecoming is a survival horror game part of the long running Silent Hill series. The protagonist of the game, Alex, recently returned from fighting in a war. Double Helix Games used Alex's background to make him a seasoned fighter, unlike the game's previous protagonist. Gamers had more opportunities to hack-and-slash the monsters of Shepherd's Glen. With the amount of violence in the game, the developer had to make several changes to appease censors in multiple countries.
In Australia, a violent death scene and drilling into body parts had to be removed. Germany's censors rejected the game until they received the same censored game as Australia. Though Germany eventually banned the game from release their country, Australia approved a less violent, though, censored version of the game.
Video games featuring high amounts of violence are often censored before reaching Japan. The Mature rated interactive video game Until Dawn is no exception. A group of friends with strained relationships travels to a secluded cabin. Few survive to tell their tale, and most of the group meet horrible deaths. These characters’ lives are in your hands. Make the wrong decisions, and the characters face beheadings, painful deaths by saws, getting shot, or squeamish moments like watching a character chop off parts of their fingers. Besides from the violent moments, there is also a significant amount of blood. These violent scenes all had to be removed from the Japanese release. Instead of showing the gruesome deaths, they were removed and are only implied to have happened.
Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 made headlines with an optional level. Players take control of an underground CIA Agent who participates in a terrorist attack against civilians in a Moscow airport. The reception was negative worldwide for the "No Russian" level. Many critics wondered why it had to be an interactive campaign mission, while others wondered if it contributed anything to the game. Several countries censored the airport scene.
In Russia, both gamers and censors disapproved of how then Russian military was portrayed in the game. As with many American video games, the Russians were portrayed as aggressive, violent terrorists. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 were banned. The PC version was still released, but the entire "No Russian" level was removed.
3D Realms' Duke Nukem is satire character of the American macho action hero. He loves destroying his enemies, smoking cigars, and attractive women. Though gamers familiar with the style of Duke's games, complaints were heard worldwide.
Australia censored the game and included a parental lock. It was almost banned altogether, but after reviewing the game, it was made uncensored and given a higher Mature rating. Germany included it on a list of media "List of Media Harmful to Young People." Brazil was one of the few countries to completely ban Duke Nukem 3D from release. Though many countries censored content from the game, changes had to be made in both America and worldwide. Besides from the censored content, the game was highly received for its gameplay, 3D level design, and multiplayer mode. Gamers don't always focus on the violence and beautiful characters.
The South Park series thrives on offensive content. In 2014, the long-running series would release a new game entitled South Park: The Stick of Truth. The game attempted to be as outrageous as the animated series. Though the ESRB allowed the developer, Obsidian Entertainment, full reign as long as a Mature rating was applied, other countries censored content before release. These scenes were only edited in the console editions, but the Seven scenes of an average 20 seconds each were removed from the game and replaced with descriptive text. Five of those scenes contain probing, while the other two involve performing abortions. The Australian release also removed the alien probing scenes. On the cards describing the events, Obsidian Entertainment also added text mocking Europe for the censorship.
The Grand Theft Auto series has ramped up its amount of violence and sexuality. The fourth sequel continued this trend. Several countries, including America, complained about the amount of violence and adult content in the game. Many believed that the game's violence would inspire players to commit crimes. Americans received the full, uncensored game from Rockstar Games.
Australia's version of Grand Theft Auto IV censored out much of the content for paid adult services. The animations were removed, and Niko and the adult service worker would just sit side-by-side. Rockstar also censored blood pools under bodies and edited injuries to be less graphic. New Zealand gamers were at first upset they would be receiving Australia's censored version, but breathed a sigh of relief when the OFLC announced they would approve the uncensored version.
Command and Conquer: Generals takes place in an alternative future. Gamers can choose to play as the US, China, or the Global Liberation Army. China immediately banned the game from release in their country due to the option to destroy real-life landmarks, such as Tiananmen Square and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
In Germany, the game was first released with few censored content. With tensions rising with the Iraq War, German censors decided that the game glorified war. The option to kill civilians was the last straw, and the game was strictly changed into a Mature rating. Publisher EA Games released a more tame version called Command & Conquer: Generäle, and human enemies were swapped out with robots instead. The game also referred to fictional countries, removing all references to real life events and terrorism.
The majority of zombie-related media is violent. Valve’s Left 4 Dead series has four protagonists who kill zombies and related monsters in violent ways. The Australian and German versions of Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 were so censored that many gamers felt that it stripped away the fun of the game. Though gamers felt grateful the games weren't outright banned; the censored game was now only a hollow shell of what it once was.
The censored content includes: slashing body parts, detailed injuries, piles of zombies, and most of the gore. Zombies will disappear from the screen before they're struck, and if they're hit with a Molotov, zombies will just run away. The edits were glitchy, and gamers complained about the poorly done censorship. The changes had to be made to get it past censors, leaving it with a MA-15+ rating.
When Blizzard released World of Warcraft, gamers from all over the world wanted to play, including China. Chinese media often censors out gore and mentions of the supernatural. Most of the gore, skeletal remains, and Undead models had to be revised. When a player died, instead of a skeleton, a tombstone would be left in the body's place. The Wrath of the Lich King expansion pack was almost denied release in China. Blizzard had to remove skeletons and a city raid before it was cleared for release.
Not only was gameplay and graphics censored, but the Chinese government also grew concerned with the addicting nature of MMORPGs. They announced a "gaming timer mechanism" that reduced your character's stats after playing for three hours in a row. For their stats to reset, you would have to log off for five hours.
When Valve first released Half-Life, German gamers only received a highly censored version. It was originally added the "The Index," which is a list of media containing violence and controversial content. Valve President Gabe Newell discussed the extensive changes that had to be made to be sold in Germany. The language setting of the game had to be hard-coded in German. All humans were replaced with robots. When you strike an enemy, instead of seeing human body parts, you would see mechanical parts instead. Blood was replaced with oil. When killed, the Scientists and Security guards did not fall to the ground. Instead, they would sit on the ground and shake their heads in disappointment. Adult content, such as jiggle physics for female characters were also removed.
Not only was the main game censored, but all additional expansion packs and add-ons received similarly censored violence and gore.
Black Isle Studio's Fallout 1 and 2 contains a world full of violence. Almost any option was open to players, even though they may face the consequences of their actions. Though Bethesda has removed the option in their Fallout sequels, the original developer had an option to kill children. Killing a child would get you permanently branded a "Child Killer, " and other NPCs would comment on how terrible a person you are. In the European version of Fallout 1 and 2, children were entirely removed from the game to protect them from being killed. Players would never be branded a "Child Killer" because that Karma entry was removed from the game.
The amount of violence and gore were heavily reduced in the European release. Death animations were reduced to characters falling to the ground with a minimal amount of blood.
Call of Duty: World at War featured elements of World War II when America faced off against both Germany and Japan. To be released in Germany, Treyarch had to remove all instances of Nazism. Any content depicting Nazism in Germany is illegal, so any Swastikas were replaced with crosses.
The violence was also heavily censored. The amount of blood during gameplay and cutscenes were reduced. Once an enemy died, the bodies would immediately fall to the ground and disappear. One could not hack-and-slash their enemy's body parts. The executions in the game were either revised to hide the final moment of death or completely removed.
One of the most popular multiplayer options, Zombie Mode, was completely removed from the game. Since the zombies were all Nazis, the censors may have believed it was easier to remove the mode instead of editing out all references to Nazism.