PC gaming has seen its share of controversy over the years. Some games have made headlines for being linked to school shootings. Other games have made headlines for bearing an eerie resemblance to real-life events.
Today, we’re reminding you of the top 5 most controversial games in PC gaming history.
There were FPS games before Doom – but Doom was the first big one. For the first time, the public became aware of games where you could shoot human beings from a first-person perspective, looking down the barrel of a gun. It offered a firsthand connection to the violence on-screen – and you can bet people were upset.
Doom wasn’t just controversial for the shooting, blood, and gore: Christian groups in the United States became upset about the satanic imagery in the game. Meanwhile, even the US military got involved when army colonels described it as a “mass murder simulator that provides military-type training”.
For years, there was even a rumor that the US military used Doom to desensitize soldiers to killing.
This controversy came to an unfortunate peak in 1999 when Eric Harris, one of the Columbine High School shooters, was revealed to be a big fan of Doom. He allegedly created his own Doom map based on the hallways of Columbine High School – although that map was never found.
For weeks after the shootings, news media was swarming with reports that video games caused violence.
What more do we need to say about Grand Theft Auto’s controversy that hasn’t yet been said? It’s a game where you can literally have sex with hookers to replenish your health, then blow them up with an RPG afterwards to get a 100% refund.
One of the most controversial moments in GTA history occurred when it was discovered that Rockstar secretly hid sex scenes in its GTA discs under the code name “Hot Coffee”. The infamous Hot Coffee mod let you view the uncensored sex scenes in all their pixelated glory.
The controversy became so prominent in the media that “Hot Coffee” even has its own extensive Wikipedia page.
Shootout to our friends at PCGamesN.com for reminding us of this one. It’s hard to believe, but a game with 2D graphics got in trouble for showcasing gratuitous nudity. That combat game was called Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior. It was released in 1987 – and it looked the part. The 2D graphics look like they’re from a century ago compared to modern games.
The funniest part about the controversy was that the game was a straightforward fighting game with mostly fully-dressed male combatants. The controversy surrounded the ridiculously large chest of the female model on the front cover. The controversy triggered public outrage, which eventually led to bigger sales for the game.
This may be the original PC gaming controversy: the game was initially released on the Commodore 64 before making its way onto MS-DOS – so it barely even qualifies as a PC game it’s so old.
Manhunt 2 was so controversial at launch that it was initially refused classification in the UK and Ireland. Made by GTA developers Rockstar, Manhunt 2 depicted violent torture scenes and rewarded players for murdering people in increasingly brutal ways.
Manhunt 2 pushed the limits of video game censorship. During the game, you rove around a city filled with criminals and lunatics. With every steal kill, you’re rewarded with a brutal execution scene.
I’m not just talking about seeing someone’s head blown off with a shotgun. In Manhunt 2, you see people get their testicles ripped off with pliers or violently decapitated with blunt knives.
The game was actually released much earlier than 2009. However, the full, uncensored version finally arrived in PC in 2009. Today, you can only get the game through Amazon.
The game, by the way, eventually received an Adults Only (AO) rating in the United States, which would have effectively banned the game from store shelves. Rockstar eventually edited the game down to an M rating, releasing it in October 2007. Gamers were treated to blurry screens of executions.
Postal 2 was launched at the heyday of the “video games cause violence” movement. Portal 2’s developers looked at all the news media complaining about violent video games and asked one question: How far can we take it?
The answer is: pretty far.
Postal 2 – named after the trend of United States Postal Workers committing shootings and “going postal” – was a hilariously violent game where you control a guy named Postal Dude. Postal Dude lives in a trailer park and gets assigned tasks by his wife – who he frequently refers to as Bitch.
Throughout the game, you can kill citizens of the town in an alarming number of ways – then urinate on their corpses.
If you’re ever questioning Postal 2’s crown as one of the most controversial video games of all time, consider this: the game is so illegal in New Zealand, that even possessing the game is a criminal offence that could possibly lead to prison.
We’ve left a lot of big names off this list. What’s your most controversial game in PC gaming history?