Controversy is no stranger to video games. From the beginning, video games have always been in some kind of trouble. However, that controversy has also pushed video games to new heights. Developers learn what flies and what doesn’t in video games, and they learn more about their craft. Controversy created the ESRB and video game rating systems, as before kids could play whatever the hell they wanted with no regulation. If little Billy wanted to play one of those adult games on the Atari 2600, no one could've stopped him, as long as the cashier had no problem with selling adult content to a minor. In my opinion, controversy is a good thing. Boundaries are pushed and flaws in society are brought to light. While I don't think video games are going to change the world, they can still bring attention to what is ignored.
However, the controversies made by the games on this list are the worst kind. They promote ignorance. Now, I’m willing to give a few of these games the benefit of the doubt, but most of the games on this list are awful and inexcusable. I can’t see how the developers can justify their decisions in making these games. There’s ignorance and then there’s intent. With all that in mind, here are some of the darkest moments in video history.
15 Custer’s Revenge
Custer’s Revenge is infamous among video games for its offensive content. For those lucky enough to not know what the game is about, here's the entire run through. General Custer is off to sexually assault a Native American woman as an act of revenge and she can't do anything because she's tied to a cactus. You see, the actual General Custer was killed by Native American when they ambushed the general and his men. So I guess Mystique, developers of the game, thought to exact revenge on the behalf of the late general by having him assault a woman?
Even though Mystique was known for creating adult games on the Atari 2600, they were sued by Atari over the game. Atari said Custer's Revenge damaged their reputation as a company by having offensive games. Funnily enough, the lawsuit only increased the sales of Custer's Revenge due to all the attention it was given.
14 Call of Juarez: The Cartel
At first hearing, I thought Call of Juarez: The Cartel would be kind of interesting. The game could've provided an insight on the war occurring down in Mexico between the government and the cartels to people who probably don't know anything about it. It could've been educational, in a Grand Theft Auto kind of way. Then you play the game and realize how much it sucks. Call of Juarez, as a game, is terrible and its racist depictions only add insult to injury for the gamer. The game has inaccurate depictions of the drug war, like having human trafficking victims changed from Mexican to American. Critics of the game point out an infamous mission in the game called "Gang Bang," where the mission is to defend yourselves against the rushing enemies. Critics point out that "Gang Bang" has achievement where you have to kill 40 enemies, however, every single enemy is African-American. It's dehumanizing.
This is a confusing entry for me, as I don't understand how something like this could fallen through the cracks. It had to be a big oversight. Scribblenauts is a game where you collect stars, as you type in words to summon items or animals or whatever to complete the level. And if you were to type in the word “Sambo,” a watermelon appears. For those who don't know, Sambo is racist word directed towards black people, specifically for people who were half black and half Native American. And I don’t think I need to explain the significance of the watermelon. If you Google "sambo" and click on Images, you'll see what I mean. The Creative Director for 5thCell, creators of Scribblenauts, Jeremiah Slackza said Sambo is an Ecuadorian name for a type of gourd that looks like a watermelon and that it was all an accident. Accident or not, 5th Cell should be more careful next time.
12 Super Punch-Out!!
Some might not know Punch-Out!! first started out as an arcade game before Mike Tyson graced the NES port. More people would know that the stereotypes that make up Punch-Out's cast have made some people say the game is racist. Even if you disagree that Punch-Out is racist, the game lazily uses stereotypes for the cast. For example, Soda Popinski of Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! used to be Champion of the U.S.S.R, Vodka Drunkenski in the arcade game. And since each character of a Punch-Out!! game was their country's representatives, Vodka made the Russians look like a bunch of drunks. The arcade version isn't the only game in the Punch-Out series to misattribute a country. The Super Nintendo version of Super Punch Out!! had the first Mexican fighter, Masked Muscle, who's a masked luchador. If Nintendo did any research, they would learn that Mexico has produced many champion boxers. Some of the best boxers in history are Mexican. But, no, he had to be a luchador.
11 Deus Ex: Human Revolution
This is surprising entry. Deus Ex: Human Revolution tends to be a pretty middle of the road game when it comes to morality. It's all pretty gray. The protagonist, Adam Jensen, often thinks about whether or not what he's doing is the right thing to do. There's the mission and then what Adam feels. Even if he did something to help people, the guilt of his actions still eat at Adam. No single action is ever purely good or purely evil in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Then we have the character Letitia, a street informant in Detroit, who sounds like an old racist Looney Tunes character. Her voice is so over the top, she might as well be called Mammy. And it's so jarring to listen to Letitia's voice and Adam's gruff voice back to back. I guess Letitia was supposed to be "urban," but I've never heard any "urban people" talk like that outside of old cartoons. Why Letitia was included in the game is beyond me.
”Bonetown: The RPG s** game where you have to bone your way to the top.” That’s the tag line for Bonetown, an adult game where the goal is to make as much whoopy, with as many women, as possible. Obviously, this is a classy game with a lot of classy content. The entry is only going to list the racism however and the sexism will be left for the unlucky player to find. Here are some examples of racism: there’s a black 'lady of the night' who is addicted to crack and sounds like Letitia from the previous entry. There is an Asian guy whose accent puts the accent of Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast At Tiffany's to shame. And the Asian man has a daughter who won “a ping pong ball contest." My favorite is the war going on between Native Americans and Indians over who can rightfully be called "Indian." Why would the Native Americans want to be called "Indians" is beyond me, but the group seems pretty adamant about it.
9 Playing History 2: Slave Trade
I am going to assume Playing History 2: Slave Trade was made with the best of intentions. But, in the most tone-deaf way ever. The game teaches slavery and how badly the slaves were treated, but I don't think having a jolly sea dragon and Captain Mouse is the best way to teach kids why slavery is bad. The game has also been called Slave Tetris because of an infamous mini-game where the player stacks slaves onto a boat in a Tetris-esque manner. Obviously, it was criticized for trivializing the abuse of slaves. Slave Tetris has been removed the game altogether to avoid offending any more people and to curb the controversy. The developer, Serious Games Interactive, has come out and said that it didn’t mean to offend people and only wanted to educate children about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Serious Games also said people shouldn’t focus on just one aspect of the game and to look at the whole picture when referring to the Slave Tetris mini-game. True, but was this really the way to teach slavery?
8 Homie Rollerz
The Homies are a series of figurines based on Chicano culture in Los Angeles. They're like little caricatures of people you might meet in East L.A. The figurines were created by artist David Gonzalez, so they’re not some misappropriated cultural toys thought up by Hasbro executives,as the figures were based on people David Gonzalez knew. With that being said, the game is still stupid and one of the worst games for the DS. The game is about winning a kart racing tournament and the winner will have their wish granted by Wizard. And Wizard is a fusion of a Mexican gangster and an actual wizard. So, Wizard is Cholo Gandalf. My favorite character is El Chilote, who is a Zapata-esque revolutionist and a chili pepper.
The game tries to be “ghetto” and “hip," but falls flat on its face. It portrays Hispanics as stupid with offensive accents. And also, you can drive a burrito. Which is disappointing because I feel that the developers could've done so much more. There could've made a bean car and called it the "Beaner-mobile." Y'know, Webfoot Technologies should've been more creative with its racism and truly embrace it.
7 Freaky Flyers
Freaky Flyers is a lot like those old racist Looney Tunes cartoons I mentioned in the Deus Ex entry, as the game has dumb and lazy stereotypes disguised as a family friendly cartoon. So, you have Sammy Wasabi, a Japanese character with big buck teeth who speaks broken English in a thick Japanese accent, which again conjures up memories of Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast At Tiffany's. There’s a cutscene where Sammy has a robot make sushi for him and you hear a gong go off in the back. They might as well have given the Mexican character mariachi music. Speaking of Mexicans, there’s also Cactus Rose, a Mexican woman with a Latina/Chola “attitude,” who speaks in a heavy Mexican accent. The game is like Punch-Out!!, but without the charm. It's just obnoxious.
6 Revelations: Persona
The first title in the acclaimed Persona series, Revelations: Persona has a weird localization choice. In Revelations: Persona, there’s a character named Masao Inaba, who is like a street urchin. Masao likes to hang out in his neighborhood, likes to dance and tag walls. Inaba is also a smart ass and he's really good at roasting people. Seems innocent enough, right? But, for some reason, when the game was brought to North America, Inaba was turned from Japanese to Black. Inaba was also more "urban" in the localization. Does dancing and tagging walls automatically mean that a character is Black? People around the world like dancing and tagging walls. I understand that stereotypes are easy to get, but that doesn't make it better.
5 Kung Fu Chaos
Wow, this game is special. Gameplay wise, Kung Fu Chaos isn't too bad. It’s kind of like Power Stone. As a game, it's awful. The cast is entirely made of Asian stereotypes, with slanted eyes and stereotypical Chinese clothing. I haven’t listened to the entire soundtrack, but I wouldn’t be surprised if every song had gongs in them. My favorite character is Captain Won Ton, who is dressed up as a won ton dumpling. The game’s villain, Shao Ting, is identical to Mr.Yunoishi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (it always comes back to Breakfast at Tiffany's). The developers of the game, Just Add Monsters, said that they “made [the] game because [they] love kung fu movies, …[and] were really surprised to see this mention of racism.” I haven't seen every single kung fu movie, but I'm curious where the found the inspiration for Captain Won Ton and Shao Ting. Maybe that kung fu movie has characters with big buck teeth and who eat "flied lice."
4 Spanish For Everyone
This game is hilarious. Yeah, it’s kind of racist, but it’s still hilarious. Spanish For Everyone is an educational game for the Nintendo DS meant to teach kids Spanish. But, the game doesn't teach Spanish as much it shows them words. It’s starts off with Shawn playing his DS on the sidewalk, before this little Mexican kid, Miguel, comes up and asks to play it. Then Miguel's dad rolls up in a limo, but he doesn't return the DS. After Miguel gets in, the police arrive and chase after the limousine as it escapes to Mexico. It makes you wonder why the police are chasing the limo, implying the Mexican characters are criminals. It's almost like Donald Trump made this game and the police were chasing a "bad hombre." The weirdest part of the game is when Shawn meets a talking bull. The bull is weirdly philosophical and laments his near death. The bull knows he’s going to die in a bull fight, but manages to take the time to teach Shawn Spanish as his last act. I recommend everybody reading this to go on YouTube and watch videos of this game. It's so weird.
3 Zog’s Nightmare
Zog’s Nightmare is a first person shooter where you play as a Nazi. Not like Wolfenstein though. Wolfenstein had you play as a hero. Zog’s Nightmare opens up with a picture of Hitler as the game quietly loads. Then you’re set loose into the world where the only goal is to kill Jewish soldiers. Apparently, the player is a Ghost Nazi, because there's no model. You're just a floating gun. And if it wasn't for the blatant Star of David, the soldiers wouldn't look Jewish, since all the enemies look the same. While you play, a catchy punk rock tune plays in the background. My favorite lyric is “You Gotta Fight/For a White.”
All in all, the game looks like a really bad early First Person Shooter. The game is filled with simple corridors that are littered with Nazi imagery and pictures of Adolf Hitler. How this was created, we'll never know.
2 Square’s Tom Sawyer
This is a surprising entry and I had no idea that Square-Enix made this game. Way back in 1989, when they were known as Squaresoft, tehy released a game based on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer simply called Square’s Tom Sawyer. Sadly, he game misses the point of the novel entirely. Above in the screen shot, you see the character Jim and how absolutely ridiculous he looks. It's common for racist caricatures of black people to have big lips, but Jim’s lips look like slices of watermelon. He doesn’t look human. His pitch black skin and beady white eyes make him look like some little creature/imp thing. The game's artwork on the left has all the characters and Jim just doesn't look human in comparison. I've heard of dehumanizing groups of people, but this game cuts the middleman out and just doesn't make Jim human. As a game, Square's Tom Sawyer is alright. The battle system is a lot like Dragon Quest's battle system, but it's nothing special. So, yeah, if it wasn’t for the controversy, Square’s Tom Sawyer would be completely forgotten.
1 Ethnic Cleansing
For this one, we had to leave the worst for last. The game was made by a record company, Resistance Records, who specialize in white nationalist music. Ethnic Cleansing is about a white nationalist killing various ethnic groups. But not for any reason. The ultimate goal is to save the world by stopping the Jewish plot of global domination. You stop the Jew plot by assassinating the Prime Minister of Jerusalem, who is the mastermind behind the global takeover. However, before you save the world, the world needs to be cleansed first. The first level has the white nationalist kill Black people and Latinos in a rundown neighborhood. Once that genocide is done, you descend into the subway to slaughter Jews, before flying to Jerusalem to murder the Prime Minister. All the while, a catchy punk rock plays in the background, like in Zog's Nightmare. Now, if you could excuse me, I need to find something to regain my faith in humanity.