The 10 Most Violent Video Games of All Time

Video games, much like comic books, rock and roll, and horror flicks, have been blamed for sullying children, inspiring violence, and contributing to the nation's moral decay. It's worth noting that, hysterical pundits aside, the latest studies suggest that violent video games aren't harmful to most kids. That's not to say that anything should go; even the most blasé gamers would probably agree that parents should monitor their kids' gaming habits. Still, the violent video game debate has reached the heights of the Supreme Court where nine justices will decide in June 2011 if selling violent video games to minors should be deemed illegal.

Over the years, there have been, admittedly, several titles in the hobby's relatively brief history that have pushed the boundaries of decency in some critics' eyes. Epic Games' upcoming Bulletstorm—a first person shooter that rewards players for insane gunplay—is the latest video game to come under fire for violent content, but it certainly isn't the first. Check out for a countdown to the #1 most violent video game of all time. Bulletstorm, which has yet to be released, doesn't qualify—yet. If you disagree with my selections, feel free to post your own list (and your reasons) in the comments. And be sure to let us know where you stand on the upcoming Supreme Court decision, too.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2010)

Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 attempted to recreate the atrocities of combat by putting players in the pilot's seat of a civilian slaughter. The much discussed (and optional) "No Russian" level sees the player controlling an undercover CIA agent who joins a group of Russian terrorists to execute an airport massacre. Although gamers aren't forced to kill any innocents, they must keep pace with the terrorists as they commit the heinous act that results in civilians screaming and running in terror as they're being mowed down. Unlike many other controversial video games, this violence wasn't just for the sake of violence; it was an important element in the overall narrative. The idea is something straight out of Fox's 24: If you have work undercover, how far will you go to maintain that cover? Still, this didn't stop FOX News from labeling Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as a game that puts children in the role of terrorist.

Postal (1997)

Think of it as the unofficial video game adaptation of Michael Douglas' "Falling Down," but with far more anguish and bloodshed. The player character goes, well, postal, and undertakes a mission of mayhem. Unlike many other shooters where the mission is to survive against overwhelming odds, Postal encouraged manslaughter by requiring players to kill a certain percentage of armed enemy "hostiles" per level using machine guns, shotguns, mines, Napalm launchers, and other brutal weapons. The over-the-top violence (complete with bloody, wailing victims) extended to innocent bystanders that happen to stumble across your murderous path (of course, there's no penalty for blasting the good guys). Needless to say, Postal and its sequel Postal 2 (starring the late Gary Coleman as himself) were early examples of violent video games, and were banned in various countries. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Mortal Kombat (1992)

Hard-hitting, blood-soaked, and incredibly violent, Midway Games' Mortal Kombat devoured quarters in the arcade and racked up huge cartridge sales when the game was ported to the Genesis and Super NES home consoles (even though the Super NES version was censored with white "sweat" replacing blood, and had the fatalities removed). The heart-ripping, impaling, and beheading proved so intense that Senator Joseph Lieberman and Senator Herb Kohl initiated a congressional hearing to discuss the video-game violence issue, which lead to the threat of government-imposed rating system if the video game industry didn't implement one itself. As a result, the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) was created over a year later to assign content ratings and age recommendations to video games. Over 20 years later, the ESRB still rates video games, and its "M" (for mature) designation has actually allowed developers to tackle topics that would not have been previously explored.

Grand Theft Auto III (2001)

The Grand Theft Auto series delved into the criminal world before GTA III, but the 2D, top-down games weren't able to capture the filth and debauchery as well as this breakthrough polygonal behemoth. Grand Theft Auto III placed players into the role of a criminal out for revenge against his ex-girlfriend who turned on him during a bank heist. The result? Gamers dove deep into the underworld where stealing cars, beating hookers (which you can do after having sex with them, if you want to get your money back), and killing police officers are the order of the day. Naturally, this lead to GTA III being the center of debate regarding video game violence, and prompted Wal-Mart to institute a policy that required proof of age for would-be purchasers of M-rated titles.

MadWorld (2009)

Developed by Platinum Games, and published by SEGA, MadWorld proved that the Nintendo Wii wasn't a system simply for family-friendly fare. The plot of the game involves Jack Cayman (a man whose right arm has been replaced with a retractable chainsaw) enters a televised game of bloodspot. Inspired by Frank Miller's Sin City comics, Madworld's brutal weapon-based action takes place in a stark black and white world that is punctuated with splashes of red (lots of splashes of red, actually) when you take out rivals either in the regular combat modes or in the appropriately-named "Bloodbath Challenges." The violence, however, is so over the top that it propels the carnage into the world of the comical, which softens its blow. A bit. The game was banned from being sold in Germany.

Manhunt (2003)

Rockstar Games pushed the violence in video games debate to a new level of intensity with 2001's Grand Theft Auto III, but the company's own Manhunt wears the blood and gore crown like a king. The plot: a death-row inmate named James Earl Cash find himself the star of a madman's real-life snuff film, in which the only way to stay alive is to kill every gangbanger in sight. The prize if he does? Freedom. This third-person stealth horror video game doesn't sound remarkably different from other edgy modern action titles, but Manhunt upped the gruesome with crowbars, plastic bags, knives, for weaponry, and it awarded players big points for coming up ultra-violent kills that, in some cases, leave the victims gasping for oxygen as they die. The brutality was so intense that there was in-house debate among Rockstar Games employees about the game's content.

Splatterhouse (2010)

This reimagining of Namco's 1988 side-scrolling beat 'em up sees the protagonist, Rick, once again donning the Terror Mask to rescue his girlfriend Jennifer from monsters that have entered our plane from another dimension. Gore was the highlight of the '88 original, but it was constrained by the graphical limitations of its time; the current version is literally one of the bloodiest video games ever created. Buckets of blood soak the screen as Rick rips enemies in half, removes their limbs to use as weapons, and impales them on sharp objects. Splatterhouse more than lives up to its name, and certainly isn't a game for the squeamish as the red stuff flows. And it flows heavily.

Soldier of Fortune (2000)

Developer Raven Software shocked the gaming masses at the turn of the century with Solider of Fortune, one of the most violent video games ever created. The first-person shooter (which features a plot detailing a merc's attempt to stop terrorists from unleashing stolen nukes upon the world) ran on Raven Software's own GHOUL damage engine. The result? A game in that features disembowelments and limbs that can be blown clear off torsos. In fact, Soldier of Fortune was so violent that the game was placed on Germany's Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons index. A 2002 sequel—Solider of Fortune: Double Helix—continued the carnage.

God of War III (2010)

Kratos continued his murderous mission against the Greek gods in God of War III, the concluding chapter in the PlayStation 3' blood-soaked God of War trilogy. The previous two entries had its fair share of violence, but the third game upped the ante with more dramatic decapitations, impalements, and limb removal sequences, and big blood splashes. Kratos' fury is so intense in this third installment that many gamers felt that the protagonist's outlook shifted from vengeance-crazed warrior to crazed god-killer.

Dead Space (2008)

When you're an engineer, not a soldier, stranded aboard a mining ship with legions of space-monstrosities, what do you do? Survive by any means necessary. Dead Space requires that you destroy creatures via dismemberment by using a torch, rotary saw, plasma cutter, and other tools of the mining trade. Developer Visceral Games uses every possible moment to toss blood in your direction—pop a baddie with the machine gun and it ruptures like a sliced artery.


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