The Most Violent Video Games
By Friday the 13th this past week, two of the goriest games to date arrived on store shelves: MadWorld and Resident Evil 5. An omen? No, it’s a bloody obvious sign that some video games are made for adults. There's a reason why the game industry has a self-regulated ratings system. Would you strap in your tween to watch Saw? Maybe traumatize a toddler by reading it to sleep with Stephen King’s “It?” Exactly. So don't go buying an "M-rated" game for the kids.
Well, that got us thinking back to the violent video games (and one that barely even spilled a drop) that have stirred up all sorts of controversy in the past. So, for your reading (dis)pleasure, we've assembled a murderer’s row of the 15 bloodiest games ever created. For the most part, this reads like a list of must-play games--if you have the stomach for them.
(To be honest, it was really difficult to narrow it down to the few titles here. Many games drip with…stuff…but we only had enough room and enough time to focus on some of the bigger ones. Hit the comment box below and share some other twisted gaming moments we may have missed.)
15. Night Trap ("Violent" Dishonorable Mention)
The big deal about Night Trap, when it first appeared on the Sega CD, wasn't the blood. That's because there was virtually none--it was all implied violence committed by people wearing reject "gimp" outfits from Pulp Fiction. Worse still, it was implied violence taken out of context.
Really, Night Trap was just a so-bad-it-was-good Cinemax movie that got chopped up (the film, not the heroines) into a choose-your-own adventure. But in that era, an interactive film with girls in lingerie was enough to make congresspeople flip their collective lids. It was largely this game--and Mortal Kombat--that helped spark the creation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).
Gore factor: Zero pints of blood. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
14. Smash TV
Back in the classic arcade gaming days, there was a frantic shooting game called Robotron: 2084. You shot at colorful graphics on a simple black background; when you destroyed something, poof--it was gone in a series of triangles and pretty colors. In 1990, that idea got reinvented as another quarter-gobbler--Smash TV, the world's bloodiest show. That hyperkinetic video game had players running around dodging bullets in order to win "Big Money! Big Prizes!"
Gore factor: Two pints of blood. Body parts flew everywhere and after a while it was hard to figure out whose limb was whose. Mr. Shrapnel would voluntarily explode, showering you with debris, while Mutoid Man--the half man, half tank--would try to run you over. And, of course, if you accidentally stepped on a land mine, a jumble of arms and legs would launch up at the screen.
13. Doom (series)
Back in ye olde tymes of first-person gaming, Doom blew people's minds. First, you had a shotgun view of the world as you ran down a hallway. Second, you had digitized death strewn everywhere. Granted, it was demons you were killing, but nonetheless nongamers were shocked while gamers were mesmerized. (Doom, by the way, was one of the first major games open for modding and released as shareware.)
Gore factor: One pint of very pixelated blood. It's easy to look at the graphics here and laugh off the bloodshed. And at the red giblets that remained after you blasted something. But remember that this was considered state-of-the-art in the early 1990s. Since that time, of course, Doom as a franchise has grown. And as the graphics of the day improved, the games rose to the occasion, becoming even bloodier than before.
12. Grand Theft Auto (series)
The Grand Theft Auto series, some think, will lead to the downfall of Western civilization. Why? Because you can cause mayhem in an open, slightly darker reflection of our own society. You can run over people in the streets, shoot passersby, or try to be a hit with the ladies. Kind of. The latest in the series, Grand Theft Auto IV, was a huge jump. A fully populated New York-like City with a ridiculous attention to detail. Maybe that's why people cringe when someone gets violent in Liberty City.
Gore factor: Zero to two pints of blood (varies). It's funny that one of the most controversial games ever made is also potentially among the least bloody. You read that right. Nobody forces you to go on a murderous rampage. You can just tool through the world if you want to goof around. But the point of these games is no more violent than award-winning thug films like Goodfellas and Reservoir Dogs. It's just odd that more people seem to get upset about the sexual parts of the game than any of the violence (Hot Coffee, anyone?).
Now, while Grand Theft Auto left you in an open world with choices, the only choice in Manhunt is kill - or be killed. You're trapped in the middle of a grim combination of The Running Man and Saw. As you try to survive this snuff film...I mean...game, it plays like a twisted take on the Tom Clancy Splinter Cell series. Lurk in the shadows, stab, suffocate and shoot anyone that gets in your way.
Gore factor: Two pints of blood. Manhunt gives you plenty of interesting ways to deal with the competition. Bash with a baseball bat, shoot, stab, use a garrote or--the one that still creeps me out--using a plastic bag to suffocate someone. See? This game isn't bad, it's teaching kids to not play with plastic bags. Yeah, that's it.
10. Condemned 2: Bloodshot
It’s part CSI episode from hell, part psychotic episode. Condemned 2: Bloodshot played out through the eyes of a special agent losing his mind--he’s chasing personal demons and psychotic killers through burned-out back alleys. When you aren’t grabbing rebar and bashing bozos, you’re using your gear to analyze crime scenes. The thing that probably freaks people out the most is that the game takes place in first-person perspective. So you’re dodging attacks coming right at the screen and landing blows as you mash down on the buttons.
Gore factor: Two pints of blood. The visceral up-in-your-grill combat of Condemned is by far the biggest draw. Listen closely for the wicked thump of 2 by 4 on bone when you swing away on psychopaths. If you ever wanted to vent and feel like you're bashing something (or someone) play this game. It's bloody therapy.
9. God of War (series)
Hacking and slashing is nothing new to video games. Neither is seeing a squirt of Type AB every now and then. God of War is one of those classic action game series goosed with great graphics. The part that really has people's hackles up are the few moments when the game slows down and the camera sweeps in as Sony's Spartan hero goes in for the kill.
Gore factor: Three pints of blood. Button-pressing timed sequences. Sounds innocent enough right? But as you're following those precise on-screen directions (like tapping "X" at the exact moment), you are forcefully tearing the wings off a harpie. Or driving a cleaver through some mythical creature's skull. Point is, the game slows down for a second almost to say, "check out how bloody this game is about to get." If this part of the God of War games got removed, people would have almost nothing to complain about--but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.
8. Soldier of Fortune
In an age of many PC-based first-person shooter games, Soldier of Fortune was...just another one. You're a mercenary hunting down neo-Nazi terrorists in possession of nuclear devices. Fairly standard fare, right? Well, the main reason anyone bought this game was because of the brutal GHOUL technology that developer Raven Software built into the Quake II engine.
Gore factor: Three pints of blood, separated. The big deal about the GHOUL system is that it allowed you to isolate over 20 different parts of the body. Shoot someone in the leg, and they limp. A shotgun blast will tear that limb right off. It was grimly fascinating for the time--to say the least. Ah, what one does in the name of entertainment.
7. Mortal Kombat (series)
Of course, a violent video game list isn't complete without giving Mortal Kombat its due. Since its gory arcade inception back in 1992, this game has graced every platform known to mankind and inspired a spate of sequels. (One loses count after about 16, but the 2008 release--Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe--was a good mash-up of superheroes and street fighters.) While people appreciated the digitally captured "kombatants," the Fatality finishing moves were what stirred up all sorts of concerns with media watchdogs.
Gore factor: Two pints of blood--and some spinal fluid. It wasn't so much the cartoony splash of red that glooped on the ground after you delivered a punch that stunned gamers. No, that honor goes to the Fatalities. We're talking signature finishing moves like ripping out the opponent's heart with a bare hand or tearing out someone's spine. Test to see if someone you know is a fan: Yell, "Get over here!" and see who responds.
6. Gears of War (series)
Lock Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, and James Cameron in a room and tell them to make a summer blockbuster-caliber sci-fi action game. Epic Games beat them to it. The Gears of War series has done a gruesome job of bringing the cave-dwelling Locust menace to life in this over-the-shoulder shooting gallery. And the series, though maturing by trying to develop an honest-to-God plot with pathos, is still a bloody affair.
Gore factor: Three pints of blood, extra chunky. Two words: Chainsaw Bayonet. The most ingenious invention of "modern" warfare is also one of the most effective--and satisfying--ways to mow through the hordes. Strap a chainsaw to the end of an automatic rifle. By the time you hear it's grinding roar and see the camera zoom in, you know something messed up is about to go down.
5. Fallout (series)
You didn't really think that a game based in post-apocalyptic America was going to come off as squeaky-clean, did you? The whole Fallout series was violent--you just couldn't see as much in the original games when you reduced enemies to a fine, red mist. But when the series hit 3D in 2008, Fallout 3's huge open world, over-the-top violence, and inky black humor catapulted it on to many lists as one of the best of last year.
Gore factor: Five pints of blood. Firing your weapon into a crowd and watching chunks fly in this game actually makes you laugh and cringe at the same time. A steam-powered bolt-launcher emits a cute whistle sound while it rips people apart. A nuke launcher dings as if the turkey is done cooking. And one of the special abilities you earn in the game is "Bloody Mess." I'll let you figure out the rest. One interesting side note, though: Like Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3 didn't force you to use violence. You can actually get fairly far in the game without having to resort to violence all the time. As if.
What's interesting is that the Nintendo Wii--normally a haven for kid-friendly fare--is getting more mature. Last year, it was No More Heroes. For 2009, that honor goes to MadWorld. You thought Sin City was violent? Then don't even think of inserting this disc into your Wii. Imagine a black-and-white world that has a beautiful style to it, but only gets little spurts of color when you spill some blood. Kind of like a creepy color-by-numbers book and all you have is a gory red crayon. MadWorld rewards you for delivering comically over-the-top kills. It's ridiculous violence--like something out of a Roger Corman movie.
Gore factor: Five pints of blood. The violence in this game is so ridiculously overboard, it's laughable--like a Tom and Jerry cartoon times 20. Throw someone into a spiked wall, or a meat grinder, or grab a lamp post and skewer someone. It's hard to take MadWorld seriously, and yet, as you're making a ripping motion and your on-screen avatar pulls off the same move, it is oddly creepy and satisfying at the same time. Maybe that's because developer Platinum Games worked with the graphic limitations of the Wii to create a bloody bit of art. If you're looking for more stylish ways to kill people, MadWorld edged out Afro Samurai: Another funky, but gory, slashing game.
3. Silent Hill (series)
The Silent Hill series is storied with insanely sick and twisted Lovecraftian nightmare monsters. The signature of the Silent Hill series is take something scary and then surgically attach something else to it to look like a demon spider. Or three lady demon-freaks playing piggy-back while trying to fillet your soul.
Gore factor: Five pints of blood.Truth be told, it took a long time to find a single screenshot that wouldn't offend people's sensibilities. The creatures drip blood and guts from all over and dealing blows to them--well, let's just say the game isn't pretty. And while the image here is from Silent Hill: Homecoming, Silent Hill II will really screw with your head.
2. Resident Evil (series)
Instead of opting for Capcom's slightly campier Dead Rising, we went with a classic series that's been around a little longer. This past week, Resident Evil 5 hit store shelves. But the zombified series has been lurking in dark corners since the days of the original PlayStation. In that time, it's gone from the equivalent of a scary B-movie to a scary action flick. (The newest installment is far better when a second player has your back.The A.I. renders your teammate a shade smarter than the zombies you're killing.) But at it's core, the series has always been about freaky undead things wanting to do freaky things to you.
Gore factor: Five pints of blood. Well, what did you expect? It's a game about all sorts of undeady weirdness. Whether it's decaying dogs chasing you, ginormous tentacled creatures trying to rip you apart, or chainsaw-wielding maniacs with an axe to grind--the series has thrown it all at the players.
1. Dead Space
Dead Space was a complete dark horse last year. A sci-fi horror game set in deep space seemed like the oft-retreaded turf of steroidal space marines fighting off waves of demons (see the previously mentioned Doom). What was interesting is how expertly the whole effort comes together. It plays like a mash-up of the greatest moments from movies like Aliens and Event Horizon with you in the director's chair. It’s eerily beautiful to look at, freaky to experience, and fun to play. And bloody. Very, very bloody.
Gore factor: Five pints of blood with a side of arms and legs. Let’s put it this way: In order to successfully kill creatures, you must dismember them. As in, lop off their arms and legs with lasers. Even the audio is like an icy dagger when you hear the squishy stomp of boots in surround sound. Be genuinely afraid of the sequel. They are bound to try and out-gross themselves. We can't wait.