Censorship is good. Censorship is bad. Censorship is fine, as long as you're never aware that it happened in the first place. For the longest time video games have experienced censorship in all shapes and sizes, without the gaming populace batting an eye. Why is that? Because there was no internet to tell us what to be mad about. Nintendo Power was there to tell us about upcoming games and cheats; not what we were missing out on from the Japanese gems we were playing. Of course, America isn't the only country guilty of this crime. Japanese games are heavily censored in Japan for explicit violent; Russia will ban a game if it deems it "gay propaganda," and Germany will rewrite the laws of death just to protect its people.
Not all censorship is done out of malicious intent. Depending on the country's culture and time period, game translators will simply do what must be done in order to get the big-name game approved at home. Sometimes these edits are hardly noticeable; other times they're unbelievably lazy. Whatever the case, everyone deserves the right to know what was lost in translation. Especially if there was no rhyme or reason to the censoring. In this top 15 list, we'll be looking at the most WTF examples of censorship in video games. We're not just talking about loss of blood or gore, but odd removal of dialogue, characters, and strawberry-flavored tofu.
Here are 15 of the strangest censorship in video games. Enjoy!
15 World of Warcraft: Dem Bones
World of Warcraft has defined the massively multiplayer online role-playing genre for well over a decade. To this day, the MMORPG continues to be one of the world's most-subscribed games with about 5.5 million subscribers, counted in October of 2015. Of course, making a game like World of Warcraft acceptable to various countries is no easy task. Blizzard Entertainment, the publisher and developer of the game, had to make some careful editing in order to launch World of Warcraft into one of the strongest online gaming markets in the world: China.
In the Chinese version of World of Warcraft, all visual depictions of skeletons were removed from the game. Why does China hate bones so much? China is 100% against the depictions of skeletons. As Tech Asia demonstrated, there are Chinese games that show skulls and bones. However, the Ministry of Culture forbids "Anything that violates China’s policy on religion by promoting cults or superstitions."
When former Chinese World of Warcraft publisher The9 was interviewed about the censorship, PR director Zhao Yurun told ChinaNet it was done to smooth the approval process. "We hope the expansion pack will successfully get the approval in acknowledgment of the self-discipline of our company," Zhao said. With fears of online piracy, it understandable why The9 wouldn't want anything to slow down World of Warcraft's anticipated release in China.
14 Earthbound: Tofu Or Yogurt?
There are times when a game's localization team will change a foreign phrase or item into something more relatable to its region. While well intended, these types of localizations can certainly go too far.
When it came to the North American release of Earthbound, commonly known as Mother 2 in Japan, Nintendo of America did a little Americanization of its own. There's a moment in Earthbound where you hear about a great new invention called the "Gourmet Yogurt Machine," however, the Japanese version is referred to as the "Gourmet Tofu Machine.” All mentions of tofu - specifically Strawberry Tofu - were changed to Trout Yogurt, presumably because American kids would recognize yogurt more than tofu.
Funny enough, lead game designer for the Mother series, Shigesato Itoi, came up with the idea of Strawberry Tofu as something that couldn't possibly exist, only to discover later on that the dish is actually real. Unsurprisingly, Itoi actually tried the tofu and thought it was terrible.
13 Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue: Mexican Banditos
Movie sequels rarely outshine their predecessors, yet, the Disney/Pixar classic, Toy Story 2 did just that. It did a phenomenal job of expanding on what everyone loved about the original movie, without retreading (too much) into familiar territory. The CGI was certainly easier on the eyes, too (four years of compute-generated advancements will do that). For a big animated hit like Toy Story 2, it comes to no surprise that there were a few video game adaptations.
One video game adaptation that stands out is Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue. Not because it changed the way we play video games or anything like that. No, it stands out because of what was censored in the European version of the game, as a stereotypical Mexican banditos were changed into blonde-haired cowboys in the game.
What prompted the change? In February of 2000, a small group of Hispanics held a peaceful protest at Activision's Santa Monica, Californian headquarters to denounce the Mexican caricature in Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue. The protest was a success, as a spokesman for Disney said the Mexican banditos would be removed from future versions of the game.
12 Dragon Ball Fusions: From Swords To Sticks
The Dragon Ball anime series certainly has its history of being subjected to strange censorship. When Dragon Ball Z originally premiered in America, all mentions and depictions of death were removed, spawning infamously hilarious moments like "I can see their parachutes." While things have certainly changed for the better, such as Dragon Ball Super airing on Adult Swim, the games apparently aren't free from archaic censorship. The American 3DS release of Dragon Ball Fusions, for example, features an edit that makes no sense.
Even though Dragon Ball is synonymous with fists and energy blasts, there are quite a few sword-weilding characters on the show. Specifically Future Trunks and his Brave Sword. However, the North American release of Dragon Ball Fusions changed all swords in the game to sticks. What's more absurd is that the 3DS game is rated T for Teens. An E-rated game like The Legend of Zelda can have swords but not an older-skewering game like Dragon Ball Fusions?
11 Half-Life: Sit Down And Think About What You've Done
When it comes to outlandish video game censorship, Germany is the gift that keeps on giving. Anime fans are well aware of Germany's strictness towards violence, but the European country's take on the 1998 Half-Life game truly takes the cake. It may seem pointless to edit an M-rated game like Half-Life to be more wholesome to European gamers, but Germany takes its censorship to next level by omitting death itself.
Yes, in the German version of Half-Life, you are unable to kill any human being in the game. There's no blood, gore, or death. When you shoot or blunt an enemy to death, they will merely sit down on the ground and shake their head in disappointment. This significantly changes the role of protagonist Gordon Freeman from badass scientist to an elementary school teacher that tells his enemies to sit down on the ground and think about what they've done.
Not only is this censorship laughably bad, but it sends the wrong message of firearms having no lethal consequences.
10 Team Fortress 2: Do The Robot
We're not quite done with Germany yet. Keeping in the theme of Valve-produced games, the German version of Team Fortress 2 neutralizes the game's exaggerated violence with something equally absurd. Before we nail down the difference with the German version of Team Fortress 2, it's important to watch one of the original animated promotions for the game. Specifically this one: "Meet the Soldier." Did you watch it? Good. Now, take a look at how Germany released the video.
Nope. You weren't hallucinating. All the blood and bones from the original video have been replaced with oil and springs. The German version of Team Fortress 2 turned all the game's trigger-happy characters into robots. It's like they were modified to become Samurai Jack enemies before the Adult Swim revival. Unlike the head-scratching censoring of Half-Life, at least the German version of Team Fortress 2 fits the original game's looney atmosphere, but that still doesn't make it right.
9 Um Jammer Lammy: Lammy Goes To Hell
You wouldn't think a cutesy-looking music game like Um Jammer Lammy would require any editing, but you would be wrong my friend. Dead wrong. In the original Japanese version, our rock star heroine, Lammy, faced an untimely demise in stage six of the game. The cause of death: she slipped on a banana peel. To return to the world of the living, Lammy must impress a singer with her guitar-playing skills.
While the European version of the game retains the afterlife chapter, the North American version changed completely everything. Instead of dying from a banana peel and being sent to Hell, Lammy snags her belt on a door handle and catapults towards a volcanic island, where she must win back her freedom through her guitar. As expected, the U.S. release of Um Jammer Lammy removes all references to death and Hell.
On the upside, Lammy received an exclusive camouflage outfit in the U.S. version of the game, as a result of her new and short-lived vacation.
8 Ice Climbers: Seal-Clubbing Fun
While a majority of today's gamers were likely introduced to Nana and Popo (don't laugh) through Super Smash Bros., the adorable Eskimo duo actually starred in a game of their own in 1984. Ice Climber for the Nintendo Entertainment System was a vertical platformer that had Nana and Popo (stop laughing) climb up 32 icy mountains to retrieve their stolen vegetables from a giant villainous condor. A cute premise for a video game, right? What could a game with a character like Popo possibly need to be censored?
Well, as it turns out, the Japanese version of Ice Climbers featured seals as a common enemy. Considering the negative reception seal clubbing usually gets from the world, it's not hard to understand why Nintendo of America would want Nana and Popo to club something else instead. For the North American release of Ice Climber, the seals were replaced by yetis. Can't be accused of animal cruelty if the animal doesn't exist.
7 FIFA 17: Rainbow Kit Ban
It's no secret that the Russian government disregards the rights of LGBT people. That was made clear when 2013's "gay propaganda law" passed, which is an intolerant law that publicly prohibits promoting LGBT rights and culture for the "sake of children's health." Why is this important? It's because this law was used by Russian MPs to push for a ban on FIFA 17 in Russia.
A rainbowed lace. That's what pushed Russia's political party to call for a ban on Fifa 17. Back in November of 2016, EA Sports offered FIFA players a free Rainbow kit to show their support for LGBT athletes around the world, as part of Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign. When the Rainbow kit premiered in the Russian version of FIFA 17, the country's MPs grew upset of what they saw was a clear violation of their gay propaganda law. Intentional or not, as Russia called for FIFA 17 to be banned for promoting gay rights, EA touted itself for being named as one of the world’s best places to work for LGBTQ employees by the Human Rights Campaign.
6 Pokémon: Pokémon No Go In Saudi Arabia
With all its incredible wealth and popularity, the Pokémon franchise is not without its controversies. The Nintendo RPG has been accused of encouraging animal cruelty through its gameplay of fighting and capturing cartoon monsters; exposing minors to the act of gambling, and invoking racial imagery with its characters (Hello, Jynx). While Nintendo has always amended the series to prevent any potential backlash, Pokémon is still subjected to international criticism. Some of which are strong enough to ban oversea players from playing the games.
In 2001, Saudia Arabia authorities issued a "fatwa" against Pokémon; prohibiting its citizens from playing the games and cards. What makes Pokémon un-Islamic? Here are the accusations: promoting gambling; sporting "deviant" religious symbols; and the biggest no-no of them all, being based on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution (you do evolve you Pokémon, after all). In 2016, it appeared Saudia Arabia renewed its fatwa on Pokémon, based on the mobile release of Pokémon Go, however, that claim was denied by the Saudi government.
Even if the fatwa were true, it likely wouldn't have stopped Saudi Arabians from joining in on the monster-hunting fun, as there were people illegally downloading the game before release.
5 Until Dawn: Saw-Inspired Death Trap
For a survival horror game like Until Dawn, a few gruesome deaths are to be expected. The game's cabin in the woods setting provides the perfect opportunity to jeopardize the lives of its horror-movie trope teenagers with the most explicit and unexpected death possible. If you're playing the Western version of the game, that is. The Japanese release of Until Dawn toned down a shocking death scene in the worst way possible.
With so much of Until Dawn's enjoyment stemming from players first time experience with the game, it's only fair to warn any potential players that the next paragraph contains significant spoilers to the story. If you don't want Until Dawn spoiled for you, simply skip to the next entry.
A significant chapter in the game forces the player to save one of their high school buddies from a Saw-inspired death trap, however, letting one go ensures the other will face an extremely painful death. The original version displays the buzzsaw carnage towards the victim's torso in all its horrific glory. In Japan, the cutscene is altered by blacking out the torso being severed and the following camera pan of the body.
Sadly, this type of censorship is expected from Japan, as similar violent games like Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War had various death animations changed to accommodate the country's strict game rating system.
4 Super Mario World: Yoshi the Dolphin Killer
The Super Mario games aren't exactly known for their offensive content. How can a series from a family-friendly company like Nintendo feature anything that could be seen as objectionable? Well, the 1990 release of Super Mario World somehow found a way. In the North American version of the game, Mario and his dinosaur buddy Yoshi are able to hop from one flying dolphin to the next in the level Vanilla Secret #3. However, in the original Japanese version, Yoshi is capable of devouring those goggle-wearing dolphins, just like any common enemy you encounter in the game.
Trying to do so in the U.S. version will merely result in Yoshi being unable to swallow his aquatic prey.
Why the change? Nintendo has never explained why the international version of Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo was altered, but there are speculations as to why this happened. The first possibility being to prevent accusation of anime cruelty outside of Japan. The second reason being to prevent foreigners from making the game harder on themselves, by accidentally eating their fastest way out of the level. Later re-releases of Super Mario World did away with the alteration, such as the Game Boy Advance release of Super Mario Advance 2.
3 Mortal Kombat SNES: Blood and Sweat
Before Grand Theft Auto became the ultimate lightning rod of controversy, there was a little game called Mortal Kombat that changed the game industry forever. Back in 1992, there was no such thing as a video game rating system in America. That meant minors were legally capable of buying and playing incredibly violent games; either at the arcades or on their video game consoles. Well, Mortal Kombat was an incredibly violent video game. The 2D fighter found fame for its over-the-top gore and death animations known as Fatalities, but it also attracted the ire of politicians that didn't want children exposed to such violent imagery.
As a result of public backlash over the game's extreme violence, Nintendo of America censored the SNES version of Mortal Kombat. All visual depictions of blood were changed to gray sweat and the game's Fatalities were watered down. Game designer Ed Boon recalled the situation to Eurogamer.
"The controversy with the game originally was because there was no rating system in place, and people were objecting to the fact that a game that was as violent as it is, did not have a rating," Boon said. "I agree with that idea. The rating system is great. The censorship with the SNES version was a response to that. Nintendo felt like they had an obligation to not offer something like this to a system that's played by many young players."
Once the video game rating system was finally in place, Nintendo eased up and allowed future Mortal Kombat games to be as violent as they wanted to be on their systems.
2 Fire Emblem Fates: ...
Nintendo has been mentioned a lot throughout this list. Right or wrong, Nintendo of America does what it needs to do to make their games acceptable to the public. That includes removing content that wouldn't be culturally appropriate outside of Japan, or spicing up dialogue to make it flow better in English. In recent years, Nintendo of America's localization team has come under fire for taking extreme liberties with certain games.
In Fire Emblem Fates, Nintendo of America made a puzzling decision to remove an important conversation between two characters entirely.
For reason unknown, Nintendo of America decided to gut an important conversation between two characters. Worse, it's now a joke. Playing up the fact that these two characters are ninjas, who are usually silent. You could argue the original Japanese dialogue was perhaps too intense for a Nintendo game, but scrapping the entire conversation for a gag was the worst way to handle it. There's not much to say here but "..."
1 Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker: Tickle Torture
Last, but not least, we have Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Like all Metal Gear games before it, Peace Walker continues the series tradition of stealth action, analyzation of war and politics, and having a wacky sense of humor. The game even duplicates the memorable torture scene from Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation One. What's new is that this Metal Gear game is rated T and not M for Mature Audiences Only; meaning graphic scenes like torture are harder to receive approval in Japan.
As mentioned in the Until Dawn entry, Japan's video game rating system is strict. In order for Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker to keep its T rating, the Japanese version had to lessen the impact of Snake being electrocuted for information. The answer: "laughing rods."
Instead of being electrocuted, Snake is now being tickled to death. It's a strange alternative, but considering how weird and silly the Metal Gear Solid games can get, it's not entirely out of character for the series. Although - not to kink shame Snake - it does give off an impression of a fetish video inspired by DeviantArt. Makes one wonder how this scene would have played out if game director Hideo Kojima fought harder for the E rating he wanted.