It's fair to say that at this point in time, video games are considered by many to be a valid artistic medium. The range and variety of games that exist allow for developers to become storytellers in the same way that filmmakers can create masterpiece movies. Some narrative-based games, such as Inside, Life Is Strange, and The Last of Us have even been recognized by awards ceremonies like the BAFTAs for their storytelling and artistry.
Like any artistic medium, some works produced by the video game industry have been viewed as being highly controversial. This can include games that have been criticized for their overt violence, like the Mortal Kombat series. Sometimes games that feature LGBTQ2+ characters are censored for their positive (and negative) depictions of people of all different types of orientations and identities.
Some games are even censored for very specific cultural reasons that would fly clear over your head without the appropriate context.
Whether or not you believe in the validity of artistic censorship, it is a reality in the world of video games. Some countries, such as Australia, Germany, and Japan, have much more stringent rules than that of countries such as the United States. Regardless of whether or not you believe these games should have been altered from their original versions, some of these censored scenes, characters, and scenarios will amuse, shock, or confuse you.
Here are thirty of the strangest, wildest, and most unbelievable video game edits of all time.
There are only a few symbols that a vast majority of the world can agree are controversial or offensive. There's one particular symbol (you know the one) that was popularized during World War II, and is associated with some of the worst wartime atrocities in recent history.
In Germany, this symbol is only ever allowed to be displayed in historical contexts, such as in a museum, so it's no surprise that the German release of Wolfenstein: The New Order had to be heavily edited so that this symbol could not appear anywhere in the game. Wolfenstein isn't the first game that's had to be censored in this fashion. South Park: The Stick Of Truth also had to have these symbols removed for the German release of their game.
Different countries have different things that they find to be offensive. Even though we share a language, there are a ton of vocabulary differences between North American English and British English. For example, "That bird's not wearing any pants!" means something entirely different in New York and in London. However, sometimes these differences are not so easy to spot.
The UK release of Mario Party had to be edited after it accidentally included a word that many in Britain consider to be an offensive slur used to negatively describe disabled people. In the United States, this word means something is silly, or crazy (in a fun way) but it's much more serious and severe across the pond. The naughty word was changed to "erratic" before the game's release in the United Kingdom.
The Kingdom Hearts series is known for it's baffling fusion of Disney properties and Final Fantasy characters. The franchise has somehow been wildly successful in spite of it's odd premise. The Kingdom Hearts games are mostly toothless and kid-friendly, especially when compared to some of the darker content in Final Fantasy games.
However, there was one change required by the game's developers for the North American release of Kingdom Hearts 3. When you look at Kairi from low angles in the Japanese version of this game, you get a somewhat shocking look up this character's skirt. Considering the young age of this character, many people considered this to be highly inappropriate. When you look at Kairi from a low camera angle in the North American release of Kingdom Hearts 3, what you see is decidedly more modest.
Australia is known for it's super strict censorship when it comes to graphic violence in video games. When it came to the release of Silent Hill: Homecoming, these stringent requirements were no different. To fill in those who are not familiar with this game, Silent Hill: Homecoming follows Alex, a soldier returning to his small hometown from an unspecified war. When Alex arrives in town, he is shocked to discover that all of the residents of his town have gone missing.
There are two specific moments that have been removed from the Australian release of this title. The first is a scene where Alex has his eyes removed by an enemy. The second censored instance is a moment where Alex's mother is pulled apart by a torture device. In the North American release, players get a direct look at both of these gruesome scenes.
It's true that the television series South Park is known for it's outrageous comedy and button-pushing jokes. Its two main writers, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, have been in and out of the news for the past twenty years for their show's controversial content. When it comes to naughty imagery that causes an uproar, South Park: The Stick Of Truth is no different than South Park the television series.
Two particular elements of The Stick Of Truth were so scandalous that they were cut from the Australian release of this game. The first scene is a minigame where Randy is "probed" by alien invaders. The second censored scene is another minigame where Randy undergoes a certain controversial procedure that's banned in a lot of countries. You know the one. When gamers reach these scenes in the Australian version of The Stick Of Truth, all they see is a crying koala.
Anyone who is still reeling from the death of Aeris will tell you that the Final Fantasy series is no stranger to dark content in their games. However, these games have never been censored for their serious themes or grown up concepts, but rather, a few revealing moments.
In Final Fantasy VI, one of your espers (which are like magical beings you can summon to help you out in battles) is Siren, a slender woman who can cast a Silencing spell on your enemies. In the Japanese release of FFVI, Siren appears without any clothing on. However, in the North American release of this game, a scarf has been carefully added to cover up Siren's most unmentionable parts. For those who like compromise, a slightly more scantily clad (but not entirely bare-cheeked) sprite of Siren was used in the re-release of this game.
Until Dawn has been praised because of its interesting and unique gameplay mechanics. This game is somewhat structured like a slasher horror movie. In this game, you have to try and protect the lives of eight Canadian teenagers who are being picked off by an unseen serial killer. The choices you make determine who lives, and who dies.
Naturally, a game like this is going to have a lot of intense moments. One particular death scene was just a little too much for the Japanese censor board to bear. One of the possible situations that can happen in this game relates to the death of your character, Josh. If you make the wrong choices, Josh meets his grisly end when he is attacked by a circular saw. The scene was removed from the JP version of this game before it's debut.
This one is going to be hard to follow for anyone who was born after the early 1990s, so pay close attention. Once upon a time, there was a President named Bill Clinton. President Clinton was "friends" with a lady who wasn't his wife, and almost lost his job over it. When comparing Clinton's affair to the current happenings in Washington, it might be hard to believe that this was enough to be the undoing of a president, but the 90s were a simpler time.
This incident characterized Clinton as somewhat of a ladies man, which is why President Clinton is depicted in the racing title, Cruis'n USA, as sitting in a hot tub with two pretty ladies in skimpy bikinis. This Presidential party scene was removed from the console versions of this game, but the Clinton scene is intact in the 1994 arcade release of this title.
The Order: 1886 is a sci-fi fantasy action game set in an alternate universe steampunk version of London. In this game, you play as the Knights Of The Round Table as they defend London's streets from the likes of vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures.
Despite its steampunk stylings, The Order: 1886 has been praised for it's accuracy and attention to detail in depicting the world of late 19th century London, sometimes to a degree that's a little too accurate for certain regions. In the Japanese release of this game, scenes were "ladies of the evening" are depicted have been heavily censored. How so, you might ask? While there is still revealing stuff in this game, it's been heavily sanitized. We can't tell you specifically which "parts" have been hidden, but it's basically the same as how a Barbie looks when you take everything off.
When it comes to the issues of warfare and history, a delicate hand is sometimes needed. This was certainly the case when it came to a few elements in the game Fallout 3. In the North American version of this game, there's one particular weapon that had to be censored for the Japanese port of this title.
The "Fat Man" cannon had to be renamed for the Japanese version of this game. This is because during World War II, the Fat Man was the name of the nuclear bomb that was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. Considering the devastation of the atomic bomb in Japan, keeping the original name was seen as being in poor taste. In the Japanese version of Fallout 3, this weapon has been renamed as the "Nuka Cannon" so that it is less offensive.
A lot of these entries are going to seem pretty justified, as they deal with imagery and content that's certifiably shocking. However, this next item on our list is more than a little strange. The Chinese release of World Of Warcraft has had a very specific change made: no skeletons are allowed to be shown. This means that the Lich King expansion was banned entirely in this country.
So what does the Chinese censor board have against spooky scary skeletons? No one really knows for sure, but there are a few theories. In Chinese culture, skeletons and ghosts are sometimes associated with bad luck. China is notorious for being heavy-handed with censorship, so it could just be an attempt to ban imagery that "promotes superstition."
Duke Nukem is a series that is no stranger to controversy. Back when this game was originally released on PC, its bawdy content, foul language, and gratuitous violence shocked the "moral majority" and spawned countless bans and reactionary complaints. When it came time for this game to be ported to the Nintendo 64 console, several key changes had to be made.
First of all, Duke's steroids were turned into harmless vitamins. As hilarious as it is to imagine Duke Nukem is obsessed with his folic acid intake, this seriously dampened the "cool dude" vibe of this character. The next thing that had to be changed was that every single grown up reference was removed from the game. Posters featuring pretty ladies were somewhat confusingly replaced by ads for Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War epic, Apocalypse Now.
Overwatch has been described as one of the most popular multiplayer first-person shooter titles of all time. Its interesting characters and engaging gameplay have captivated the hearts and minds of gamers of all ages, genders, and nationalities. However, back in 2016, there was a controversy over one of the victory poses of a character from this game.
Overwatch's character Tracer was originally given a victory pose that put what some people believed was inappropriate attention on her assets. Considering that Overwatch has attracted a lot of women gamers, some people believed that an overly physical pose was too objectifying for this character. The developers of Overwatch eventually gave in to the complaints and changed Tracer's victory pose into something that was just a little less revealing and scandalous.
Why so serious? Well, it might be because the Joker has a controversial Fatality move in the 2008 fighter game Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe. Anyone who knows anything about the Batman series will tell you that facing off against the Joker is no laughing matter. Especially when it comes to the comic book series, the Joker can be downright brutal with his methods of dispatching his enemies. Just take a look at The Killing Joke if you don't believe us.
It's no surprise that the Joker's Fatality might stir up some controversy. On the surface, his move sounds tame: The Joker pulls out a comic "BANG" gun and shoots his enemy. However, in the UK, there are much more sensitivity intense scenes, and the camera angle for this Fatality move is altered to hide its brutality.
Of course Grand Theft Auto is going to be on this list! It's a game that's named after a felony! Very little of GTA: V was ultimately softened or removed in the North American release of this game, but the same cannot be said for the Japanese version. So much has been taken out of Japan's rendition of GTA: V that it's hard to know where to begin.
First of all, several scenes where characters are featured in states of undress have been edited for the sake of modesty. Trevor's introductory scene removes an "intimate encounter" in its entirety. A mission where you work for the paparazzi to try and get some dirt on a teen idol is changed entirely to be less titillating. Finally, an "advanced interrogation" minigame has been removed entirely.
This is another one of those weird, cultural issues that developers from North America don't typically think about. In Japan, it's considered very taboo to depict characters with only four fingers. Why, you might ask? Well, apparently, it has everything to do with the Yakuza. In this criminal organization, a common punishment for wrongdoing is Yubitsume, the practice of removing a portion of the pinkie finger.
When a person is missing their little finger, it's a telltale sign that they are affiliated with this criminal organization. Several video game characters, such as Crash Bandicoot and Bob The Builder, have to have an extra digit attached to their hands in order for their games to be sold in Japan. Even mobile games, like Fat Princess, have to have these "digital" alterations put in place.
Times have changed a LOT since 1989, which is when Final Fight was released. This game is considered to be a "cousin" to the Street Fighter series, as these two games have a lot of overlap with their characters and storylines. Anyway, Final Fight featured the character Poison, who was somewhat controversial. This character was originally meant to be a cisgender female, but Capcom's developers thought that North American audiences would complain about having to beat up a woman in their game.
So what did Capcom do? They made Poison transgender. No, seriously. Capcom thought that it was more socially appropriate for players to beat up a transwoman than a cisgender woman. With the high rates of violence against transgender people everywhere, we shouldn't have to tell you why this is grossly inappropriate.
Many gamers and critics have declared that The Last Of Us is a masterpiece. This game has been praised for its hyper-realistic visuals, its compelling story, and its innovative gameplay. However, some European and Japanese censors have deemed that certain aspects of this game are just a little TOO real for release.
One the major changes between the EU and JP versions and the North American version of The Last of Us comes down to one specific scene. In the North American release of this game, a cutscene where Ellie witnesses someone butchering meat that doesn't belong to an animal. In the international releases of this game, the camera angle has been reversed so you can't see what sort of meat is being chopped by Ellie's captors.
In most cases, games in North America are the least censored out of every international release. However, when it comes to certain issues, like gender and identity, more changes are made. This was the case with the North American release of Chrono Trigger. In the Japanese version of this game, the character, Ayla, is considered to be openly bi.
However, at the time of Chrono Trigger's North American release in 1995, there was much less cultural openness and understanding about LGBTQ2+ people. Several lines of Ayla's dialog was edited or cut from the North American release of Chrono Trigger to try and hide Ayla's preferences. However, in subsequent re-releases of Chrono Trigger, and in fan-made translations of the original Japanese game, these lines and aspects of Ayla's character remain intact.
Of all the games that could possibly be on this list, Crash Bandicoot isn't a likely candidate. This overwhelmingly kid-friendly platformer featuring a broad-shouldered marsupial has never been handed any rating higher than an "E For Everyone" ranking by the ESRB, so what could possibly be offensive here?
Well, as they say: timing is everything. Around the time that Crash Bandicoot 2 was released, a serial attacker was terrorizing Japan by leaving certain body parts in public places. One of Crash's cartoon violence moments depicts his head and his feet as being separated from his body. Because of the visual similarity between the serial killer's "leavings," and the innocent cartoon violence of Crash Bandicoot, this animation was removed from the game in its entirety.
If you're currently hooked on Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, then this next entry will be of special interest to you. Fans of the original Animal Crossing game will obviously be familiar with Sahara, the long-lashed camel who peddles exotic carpets, and with Gracie, the fabulous fashion designing giraffe who mocks your town and basically calls you a peasant when she comes to visit.
You'll be very surprised to learn that in the Japanese release of Animal Crossing, both of these characters are actually portrayed as men. To make things a little wilder, the implication in the Japanese version of Animal Crossing is supposed to be that Gracie and Sahara are gay. Nobody really knows why Nintendo chose to swap the genders for these two characters. It could be that the company feared a stereotypical portrayal of gay men would make North American audiences a little uneasy.
Mario Kart isn't exactly a series that's known for generating mass amounts of controversy. Outside of living room outrage caused by a last-minute red shell attack, how much drama can be generated by cute characters driving in circles? In Mario Kart 8, the answer is: a lot.
An uproar was caused after it was revealed that Inkling Girl, one of the newest additions to Mario Kart's playable character lineup, had a victory pose that many people consider to be an offensive gesture. After looking at the pose, North American readers might be a little confused, so let us explain. In several European countries, Inkling Girl's banned pose is akin to flashing the middle finger gesture in the United States, or the "backwards V" sign in the United Kingdom.
When it comes to censorship of games, survival horror titles are usually the first on the chopping block. This was definitely the case when it came to the 2008 release, Siren: Blood Curse. If you're unfamiliar with this series, Siren: Blood Curse is basically a reimagining of Siren, a horror title whose gameplay revolves around an ensemble cast of characters using telekinesis to communicate and share information.
Most of the gory details of Siren: Blood Curse are left in tact, but one specific scene in the North American release of this game got the ax. In one cutscene in the Japanese version of this game, you can see one of this game's characters commit suicide by using a shotgun. This scene is heavily edited in the North American release of this title.
If you're like me, you're on pins and needles waiting for the release of Shenmue 3. If you're unfamiliar with Yu Suzuki's iconic open-world series, Shenmue follows the life of Ryo as he explores 1980s Japan in search of the man who killed his father. The original game premiered on SEGA's gone (but not forgotten) Dreamcast.
In Shenmue 2, Ryo faces off against the street gangs of Hong Kong in his quest to revenge his father's death. One of these Triad henchmen is Yuan, a character who is either gay or transgender in the Japanese version of this game, depending on who you ask. The European and North American releases of Shenmue 2 changed Yuan's gender from male to female to cover up this aspect of the game. Shenmue purist need to fear not, as it has been reported that Yuan's original identity will be restored in Shenmue 3.
It can be said that in some situations, the Japanese are culturally a little more relaxed about the concept of being revealing, especially when compared to American attitudes. This was certainly true when it came to Earthbound, the 1994 release that was known as Mother 2 in Japan. In this game, you play as Ness, a young boy who is trying to stop an alien force from taking over the world.
This game was praised for its unique storytelling structure and its unusual gameplay elements. In one scene in Earthbound, Ness travels deep inside his own mind. In the Japanese release of this game, Ness feels a little more comfortable waltzing around in his birthday suit. However, that wasn't going to fly in the American release of this game. Ness' character design was changed so that he's wearing pajamas for us prudish Puritans in the United States.
We've already established that Australia is notoriously strict about the content shown in video games, but most people don't know that Germany is even worse. For a time, Germany banned any depictions of humans killing other humans in their games. Game developers like Valve weren't keen to lose an entire country's market, so they had to come up with a creative solution.
In games like Team Fortress 2, all of the characters have been changed from humans into... robots! It's such a bizarre and asinine change, isn't it? However, swapping out human character models for clunky automatons seems to be good enough for the German government to approve the sale of a game. Team Fortress 2 isn't the only title that's been "automated." Titles like Half-Life and Soldier of Fortune have had similar strange changes.
Russia is another country that has very strict censorship rules when it comes to the types of games that can be sold in their nation, but the specific things that have to be changed might surprise you. FIFA '17, the long-running soccer (or football, if you're European) franchise, was pulled from the shelves in Russian stores for one particular reason.
One of the team's kits (which is another word for uniforms for those who aren't too sporty) contains rainbow-colored shoelaces. This was originally meant to be a uniform change to support LGBTQ2+ rights. Russia has very strict rules about what it views as gay propaganda, and so FIFA '17 was not allowed to be sold in this country until the "offensive" shoelaces were removed.
Anyone who has ever played any of the Saints Row games will not be surprised to see them mentioned on this list. Certain aspects, such as the ability for your characters to be "in the buff," and a few special weapons shaped like anatomical objects, have drawn a lot of complaints from various advocacy groups.
However, in Australia (again,) there's one particular element of Saints Row IV that was considered to be especially egregious. In one quest in the game, your objective is to obtain and consume an alien version of an illegal substance that is popular in college dorm rooms and at Phish concerts. Australia took offense to the depiction of Saints Row's secret herbs and spices, and forced the developers to remove this mission from the game before its Australian release.
If you're chomping at the bit to get your hands on Death Stranding, here's a Hideo Kojima related nugget to tide you over until the game's release. In the American release of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, there's a scene where Solid Snake is captured and interrogated using electricity. However, this scene's "shocking" content was too much for the Japanese censors to handle.
In the Japanese release of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, the electric shockers used to make Snake talk have been replaced by... tickle wands? You read that right. Solid Snake can be tickled to death in the Japanese release of this game. This change actually doesn't damage the integrity of Peace Walker too much, as the Metal Gear series is known for its silly and sometimes irreverent scenarios that occur alongside more serious scenes.
Considering that the NES existed long before the invention of the ESRB, it seems unusual that anything released on this console would have been censored. However, you need to consider the history of the Nintendo Entertainment System. The word you should focus on here is "Entertainment," as this console was originally supposed to be something that could be used by the entire family. We've already covered all the weird and wild ways that the NES worked as a home entertainment system, so it's clear that Nintendo wanted this console to be squeaky clean.
This is probably why the boxing game Punch Out!!! has a character's name significantly changed. In the North American release of this console, the Russian boxer, Vodka Drunkenski, had his name changed to the much more family-friendly title of Soda Popenski.