Video games have been around for decades now. As the years go on, we are giving developers more room for creativity. This has resulted in some amazing games, with many more set to come. However, certain countries have had little to no appreciation for some of their projects. Banned video games are not a new phenomenon. On the contrary, it’s been happening for years now.
“Indie devs” have included certain elements such as graphic violence or gay scenes certain countries never appreciated. A lot of the nations against stuff like this are in the Middle East, largely due to the conservative Islamic culture.
The rest of the world is not as open-minded as the United States, yet even they have boundaries for entertainment. For some nations that ban games, it’s because of certain strong cultural traditions they want to uphold. Others simply overreact and ban video games before quickly overturning it due to public outcry.
Whether banned video games should be reinstated wildly depends on who you ask. One man’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue could be another’s softcore adult entertainment. The same applies to the games on this list. You may or may not agree with the ban. However, these decisions aren’t always up to the buyers.
Nevertheless, some of these banned video games did find their way back to shelves. Some weren’t even entirely banned, just the physical copies.
That being said, here’s a list of countries that banned video games and why they did it.
China – Battlefield 4
- Countries That Banned It: China
- Reason For Ban: Threating National Security
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China banning a video game that paints it in a negative light comes as a surprise to no one. Just recently, Blizzard Entertainment banned Hearthstone esports player, Blitzchung, for expressing his support for the Hong Kong protests.
A massive public outcry after eventually resulted in a reduction in the ban and his winnings reinstated. Rumors have swirled that Blizzard dished out the ban in part due to business interests with China. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate.
Back to Battlefield 4, China banned the game for its negative portrayal of Chinese culture. A translated statement from the Chinese Ministry of Culture reads: “Battlefield 4 is an illegal video game, with content that endangers national security. It is an aggressive attack on our culture…”
More statements issued by China allude to complaints of the world shifting from Russia being the bad guy to them. Is the argument credible or is it just a big misunderstanding? I’ll leave that up to you.
Fun fact: Battlefield 4 is set in 2020.
South Korea – Mortal Kombat X (2011)
- Countries That Banned It: South Korea
- Reason For Ban: Excessive Violence
With features such as fatalities and brutalities, some countries eventually took action on Mortal Kombat. The surprise here is that the country is South Korea.
South Korea is one of the pro-gaming juggernauts of the world. One look at the Overwatch League teams is just about as clear as it gets these guys mean business. However, even a big hub such as this has its limits.
South Korea banned Mortal Kombat for its excessive violence and cruelty. For a country that allows more freedom in games, Mortal Kombat’s ban puts it in a small group of banned video games. In addition, South Korea also has a “curfew” in place to curb video game addiction.
New Zealand – RapeLay
- Countries That Banned It: Argentina, New Zealand, & More
- Reason For Ban: Simulating Rape Scenes
Naming a video game RapeLay is essentially begging for attention. It was only a matter of time before this game became a topic of controversy sometime after its release. The people at Illusion created a 3D eroge RapeLay game and released it in Japan in April 2006.
You play as Masaya Kimura, a young man caught and reported for groping a woman on the subway train. This subsequently leads to your arrest, but your influential father helps with your release. Now a free man, you swear revenge on the girl who reported you, her sister, and her mother.
The main aim of the game is to stalk the mother and her underage daughters and rape them. The details are quite graphic in nature and are more of what you’d expect to see in “adult content” more than video games.
New Zealand banned RapeLay for its controversial plot along with multiple other countries. Ironically, it was included in a New Zealand article arguing “there is no substantive scientific evidence linking violent media to aggressive or antisocial behavior.”
United Arab Emirates – Spec Ops: The Line
- Countries That Banned It: United Arab Emirates
- Reason For Ban: Portraying Dubai In A Destroyed State
It seems like China isn’t the only country that doesn’t want to be painted in a negative light. The United Arab Emirates banned Spec Ops: The Line going as far as blocking its distribution in other Arab countries. The main reason for the decision is that the game depicts Dubai in a destroyed state.
A lot of Dubai’s fame comes from its luxurious offerings for those wealthy enough to afford them. It’s also home to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. Why, then, would a game like Spec Ops: The Line warrant such decisive action? Did it really affect tourism and foreign investment in the country?
Only those in the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the U.A.E would know. Spec Ops is only one of many banned video games over there. Others include Heavy Rain, The Godfather II, and ROBLOX.
Nepal – PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)
- Countries That Banned It: Nepal
- Reason For Ban: Addictive To Children
The surge of online battle royale games in 2018 took the entertainment world by storm. Long before Fortnite took over, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds held the torch for months on end. That is until a certain young man with brightly colored hair played a match live with superstar artist, Drake.
The whole concept of PUBG is to be the last one standing from a group of one hundred players in a shrinking circular area. Though fun and entertaining, playing it excessively is entirely up to the individual. Regardless, parents and teachers have criticized battle royale games for their addictive nature.
Sandip Adhikari, deputy director at Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) said PUBG was banned because it was too addictive.
Nepal lifted the ban shortly after.
Iran – Battlefield 3
- Countries That Banned It: Iran
- Reason For Ban: Portrayal Of The United States Invading Tehran
Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter developed by EA DICE and published by Electronic Arts. The setting is a fictional war in 2014 happening around the Iran-Iraq area. You play as multiple characters, the main one being SSgt. Henry “Black” Blackburn of the U.S Marine Corps.
Battlefield 3 drew criticism from Iran for its depiction of the U.S. invading its capital, Tehran. Some of the scenes depicted were very close to what happened in real-life rubbing salt to an already sore wound. Though not officially released in Iran (EA doesn’t have a reseller there) the ban went into effect to prevent distribution.
Ironically, many Iranian gamers didn’t take to the game either. A petition with 5,000 signatures surfaced protesting the game and its release.
On the bright side, Battlefield 3 came out in 2011 and not early 2020, as the relationship with the United States and Iran isn’t great right now. Then again, have the two ever really been close?
Pakistan – Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni
- Countries That Banned It: Pakistan, Iran, United Arab Emirates, & Australia
- Reason For Ban: Sexual Content & Glorifying Homosexuality
The LGBTQ conversation is a very hush one in some countries. Worse still, it’s illegal in some African countries to even be gay.
Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni features curvy, anime-type, Japanese girls fighting each other in teams of two. Each player has a special move called a “drive” where their teammate turns into a weapon. In order to do this, your character grabs her teammate’s oversized breast initiating the sequence.
This can be done three times with each initiation sequence growing more intimate. Moreover, constant fighting rips off your character’s clothes until a bra and panties are what’s left the lower your health drops. Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni, if anything, is more comedy than anything else.
However, that did not stop several countries from banning it. While it made sense to see the ban in the Middle East, the real surprise for many was seeing Australia ban it. However, as weird as it might sound, Australia has never really been the best place for those in the LGBTQ Community.
While not as bad as African or Middle Eastern nations, it’s not as distant from them as it should be in this category.
China – Devotion
- Countries That Banned It: China
- Reason For Ban: Easter Egg Insulting Chinese President, Xi Jinping
An Easter egg, according to dictionary.com, is defined as a “text, image, joke, or other that content creators intentionally hide in media for amusement.” Well, amusing in China doesn’t always mean the same thing as the rest of the world.
Taiwanese-made horror game, Devotion, offended Chinese players following the discovery of a poster with the words “Xi Jinping Winnie the Pooh”. A Disney character reference seems like a pretty petty reason to ban a whole game. However, Jinping and China have done worse over less in the past.
The controversy doesn’t end there. The poster also included syllables with a similar sound to a phrase in Mandarin meaning “your mother is a moron”. Devotion’s initially positive reviews plummeted after this discovery following bad reviews from Chinese players.
South Korea – Homefront
- Countries That Banned It: South Korea & North Korea
- Reason For Ban: Negative Portrayal Of A Unified Korea Under North Korean Rule
Despite generally positive reviews from critics, Homefront drew a lot of attention to its story for the wrong reasons. Homefront is a first-person shooter about a resistance movement fighting against the military occupation of Western U.S by a unified Korea.
The new Korea, dubbed the Greater Korean Republic (GKR), is led by Kim Jong-Un after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il. Homefront shares a lot of similarities with other shooters in terms of aiming down sights, strafing, hip fire and more.
The game’s timing was also controversial with a release date. It can near the time of an artillery strike by North Korea on Yeonpyeong island. South Korea bans titles that describe “anti-national” actions or “distort historical truths”.
Thailand – Grand Theft Auto V
- Countries That Banned It: Thailand
- Reason For Ban: Excessive Violence
The case with banned video games in Thailand may hold some merit following an incident involving a taxi driver and a teen. The latter, an 18-year-old student, tried to rob a taxi driver to gauge its difficulty in real life. When the driver tried to fight back, the teen stabbed the man to death.
This, supposedly, isn’t the first time a crime of this nature has occurred. A group of teens went on a “rampage” in Nassau County in the United States inspired by Niko Bellic of GTA IV.
The teen’s actions prompted a response from Take-Two Interactive, Rockstar’s umbrella company. They released a statement decrying the actions, but it was not enough to some. This became an issue even more so when they defended the game saying: “it would be wrong to link unfortunate events like these with any kind of entertainment product.”
Singapore – Half-Life
- Countries That Banned It: Singapore
- Reason For Ban: Violence
Arguably one of the more popular video game titles, Half-Life, didn’t find much love from Singapore’s government. It’s a first-person shooter where you play as physicist Gordon Freeman. In the game, Freeman accidentally opens a portal forcing him on a journey to try and right things that had been wronged.
Singapore banned the game due to its violence. However, this ban caused a lot of uproar and petitions sent to government officials in protest. The government lifted the ban roughly a week later because the game had been out for more than a year.
Half-Life is an old game and the graphics aren’t all that great. However, there is a plan to bring them all up to the newest generation in consoles, which should come with vastly improved graphics. In particular, the newest in the series will try its hand at Virtual Reality. If this works well, then all could transition to VR.
It’s baffling why some countries would ban such games that barely resemble anything human. At least the Singaporean government was willing to listen and make amends this time. They are one of only a handful that has done this.
Saudi Arabia – Red Dead Redemption 2
- Countries That Banned It: Saudi Arabia & United Arab Emirates
- Reason For Ban: Violence, Nudity, Prostitution, And Cruelty
Yet another Arab country appears on this list of banned video games. Gamers in the Middle East just can’t seem to catch a break. Saudi Arabia decided to ban Red Dead Redemption 2 for violence, nudity, prostitution, and cruelty. It is far from the first or last that has experienced this with the Saudis.
Such things in Islamic culture are considered haram meaning forbidden. A number of countries in the Gulf have become more relaxed with traditional concepts, but they’re still largely tied to Islam. Anything challenging their faith, whether in real life or media, normally gets taken care of quickly.
As with many bans, some of the banned video games sometimes can be found in certain stores or even digitally. Nevertheless, such actions are taken at the individual’s own risk.
Germany – Dying Light
- Countries That Banned It: Germany
- Reason For Ban: Gory Violence
Germany has quite the list of banned video games. The Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (extra points if you can say all that in one breath) is the body in charge of video game ratings in Germany. The process there tends to be a little more complex in comparison to other countries.
Dying Light is a first-person shooter where you play as Kyle Crane, in the city of Haran, during a viral outbreak. The game features the use of various makeshift melee weapons such as pipes that burn enemies, as well as regular guns.
Dying Light leans more on the gruesome side with body parts flying everywhere every other swipe, depending on your level. Its gory nature and violent themes earned it a ban in Germany.
Many players, as well as content creators, were disappointed by the move. Still, if you go on Twitch and search for Dying Light under the gaming category, you just might find a German person streaming it.
United States of America – X-Men: Destiny
- Countries That Banned It: United States of America
- Reason For Ban: Plagiarism
Even the free world has to have some restrictions, right? At least to maintain law and order? The United States is one of the few countries where people from all races, religions, gender, etc. can find like-minded communities.
Freedom of expression is upheld in the country, with most minority groups have a voice. The “ban” in this case wasn’t because of an insult to a group’s culture or way of life. Plagiarism was the main culprit here.
Silicon Knights, a former Canadian video game developer, faced accusations of plagiarizing Epic Games’ Unreal engine to make Too Human and X-Men: Destiny. They were later ordered to recall and destroy any copies of the games they made using the plagiarized engine.
Brazil – Bully
- Countries That Banned It: Brazil
- Reason For Ban: Violence In A School Setting
Wet willies, arm burns, and wedgies don’t fly too well in Brazil when portrayed in a video game. According to the Associated Press, Judge Flavio Rabello ordered the suspension of all sales of the game in Rio Grande de Sul province in Brazil.
Brazil’s biggest complaint was that the game took place in a school which made it “unacceptable.” Granted, Bully did have some missions that were rather sketchy. A mission where you helped the gym teacher steal panties from the girl’s dorms is one fine example.
In today’s world, such a mission would cause massive outcry even in the U.S. in the wake of things like the #MeToo movement among others. Rockstar’s antics may have slipped by in the past years up until Grand Theft Auto V. However, with the ever-changing social landscape today, such daring antics may not go unnoticed so easily.
United Arab Emirates – Heavy Rain
- Countries That Banned It: United Arab Emirates
- Reason For Ban: Violence & Sexual Content
The United Arab Emirates ban hammer pounds again. This time the game in question is Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain. The game features an immersive storyline that will pull even the tightest of heartstrings. The game’s impressive twists and turns also provide a lot of replayability.
You play as four protagonists trying to solve the mystery of the Origami Killer. The game is heavily dependent on player choices, which can lead to multiple endings. This sounds innocent enough on paper, so why would the U.A.E ban it? Too much violence and sexual content.
The game does feature a scene where one of the characters strips and acts seductively but doesn’t go fully nude. This, potentially, is interpreted as haram by the nation, resulting in the game’s ban.
Brazil – Carmageddon
- Countries That Banned It: Brazil, Argentina, & Germany
- Reason For Ban: Gory Violence
Carmageddon is a racing game where you run over pedestrians for points while competing for first place against AI. Given its time, the game’s design is simple with small maps and little else besides the road, cars, people, and buildings.
According to Brazil’s Justice Ministry, the game’s concept could incite violence in young players. Considering the high death rates at the time, such a ban probably seemed like a good idea. Still, as time went by, we can’t say for sure there was a direct correlation between the two.
A reboot of the game called Carmageddon: Reincarnation came out in 2016 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Republic of Ireland – Manhunt 2
- Countries That Banned It: Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, & South Korea
- Reason For Ban: Excessive Violence & Cruelty
Rockstar Games just can’t seem to stay out of hot water. Manhunt 2 faced controversy before any footage of the game came out. The game is incorrectly linked to a murder in the United Kingdom, which spurred on this fiery response.
Manhunt 2 is a horror stealth game with executions of enemies varying from mild to outright gruesome. With the series’ dark and tumultuous past, getting it out to the public involved a much longer process than other games.
The Irish Film Classification Office banned it briefly for “gross, unrelenting, and gratuitous violence.” The Republic of Ireland lifted the ban after giving it a PEGI 18 rating system was introduced.
Australia – 50 Cent: Bulletproof
- Countries That Banned It: Australia
- Reason For Ban: Bloody Violence
Most of us know 50 Cent for his smash hits like “In da Club” and “Candy Shop” from his earlier days in the rap game. Of course, we also know that he has also been in altercations with police. Yet the biggest thing most know about him is that he was shot and somehow survived, which led to a video game.
Much of 50 Cent: Bulletproof includes taking out drug dealers, gunfights with masked assailants, and trying to recover stolen jewelry. Other members of G-Unit are also present in the game but as non-playable characters.
50 Cent: Bulletproof features gory scenes such as one where you saw a man in half while hs pleads for his life. As a result of these themes, Australia went on to ban it. However, a censored version was released later. Some banned video games have come back in nations like Australia as a result of censored versions coming into play since.
Venezuela – All Violent Video Games
- Countries That Banned It: Venezuela
- Reason For Ban: Too much Violence In The Country
The debate about video games leading to violent behavior in children has plagued gaming for years. It seems like every time a young man commits a heinous crime, the first cause of his behavior is violent games. Funny enough, even President Trump thinks “gruesome and grisly video games glorify violence.”
In 2010, a Bill for the Prohibition of Video Games and Toy Weapons became law in Venezuela. This means selling violent video games or toys can lead to a big fine and prison time. Blaming video games for violence may be understandable, but toys are an entirely different conversation.
Of course, Venezuela is not the most peaceful place on Earth. Blaming video games for its atrocious state of affairs could be nothing more than a diversionary tactic. The bigger question is: do violent video games really cause violence and is banning them really an answer? What about violent movies? Surely those are worse since they’re more realistic, right?
For now, we can only hope those black-market Terminator action figures in Venezuela don’t poison the poor kids’ minds.