Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

How Mature


Recently in the UK news there was an article stating that a head teacher would report parents to the local authorities if they discovered any of the children in the school were playing mature rated games, citing that the parents would be accused of “neglect.” While I feel accusing parents of being neglectful is not entirely fair it does pose the question: just how mature are games these days? This article is going to cover my own experiences of mature rated games as I grew up and how I feel about the subject now.  [Editor’s Note: Fred wrote an article in the past dissecting mature rated games in the US, that perspective is here.]

The Immortal on Mega Drive

The Immortal on Mega Drive

When I was younger the most mature games I played with my brothers were Mortal Kombat, SplatterHouse 2 and a very unique title called The Immortal on Mega Drive (Genesis). Of course we all know (and love) the violence in Mortal Kombat provided you remember the blood code of course (if you forget Fred will happily drill it into your head). While this was very violent for the time it kinda came across as comical violence and I think it’s very safe to say most of us that played this game growing up did not turn out to be psychotic killers as the media would have you believe. SplatterHouse 2 had you play a guy that literally punched the torso off a monster and as he fell you would see a glorious geyser of blood erupt from the stump that was left behind, and that was just for the standard enemy. The boss deaths were something else entirely on another level, the eyes would literally explode out the bosses socket after its defeat. Oh and did I mention this was before we had a rating system for video games. The final game, The Immortal, had you play a wizard in a dungeon and you would die literally round every corner, your character might get eaten by a giant worm, dissolve into a putrid mess, or just get burned alive by a dragon; thinking about it now it’s similar to the horrible deaths your character experiences in Resident Evil 4. The main point of a lot of old games is they absolutely contained graphic violence but that is really where it ended. These mature games were also quite uncommon as the majority of the games, at least during the 16-bit era and before, were aimed at younger people anyway. During the 16-bit era we did start seeing age restrictions on games.  Mortal Kombat II was stuck strictly with a 15+ certificate (which is in-between a “T” and an “M” in the US) and the series really hasn’t returned to a lesser rating since (except MK vs DC, but that’s more of a crossover title).

duke_nukem_3d_boxFor a while one of the most mature games I’d played at a young age was Doom. This classic first person shooter contains a lot of gory enemy deaths as well as some unsettling imaginary. After all, you do go to hell. A friend of mine was actually banned from playing this game by his parents as they were quite a religious family and they felt that the hell references where offensive. He wasn’t even allowed to play the toned down SNES port the poor fella. Another PC classic that not only feature violence but sexual content and swearing was Duke Nukem 3D. What’s interesting is,  my dad isn’t much of a gamer but he loved Duke Nukem 3D. Now he was quite self aware of the strippers and the swearing in the game and did actually use the parental lock to censor most of this content (but he kept the violence intact). The only problem for him was he forgot the password so he had to endure the censored version of the game as well.

On we head into the Playstation era where I saw a lot more mature rated games. Sony was of course quite keen to have more games appealing to a wider audience and it absolutely worked in there favour. Suddenly we had more adult themed games like Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid, the list was endless. With that comes more adult themes. Metal Gear Solid specifically would introduce some mild sexual references, which was pretty uncommon to see in games – I remember Snake hitting on every girl over the codec. Resident Evil featured some very graphic deaths, which for the time were quite shocking and even disturbing. The snake boss known as Yawn would literally devour your character in a display that looked quite unpleasant. Interestingly mgs_flirtTomb Raider received a lot of attention not because it was particularly violent but because of Lara’s figure. Magazines would regularly joke about how her boobies went from being pointy to ever increasing curves with each game in the franchise. In fact this was the first game I think my own mother pointed out that she found them unusual and not necessarily suitable for my younger brother. Looking back its funny how she had a problem with this but had no issue with how horrible Lara would die in this game whether it’s watching Lara drown, get impaled, or just fall from a great height only to crumple into a blocky mess. The N64 had two games which stood out to me containing mature content. The first was a game called Body Harvest, a game I hope to cover in a lot more detail on the site in the future. In this game you play a space marine trying to save civilians from an alien invasion. What is surprising for a Nintendo game is, this game contains strong themes of threat (think War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise). Large alien blobs will literally tear towns apart in this game and some slime like enemies will transport civilians to a giant alien which will literally devour them in front of you. What’s worse is you can be caught and eaten as well. Its quite the unsettling scene and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything else like it since. The second game is Perfect Dark, the first game I remember hearing swearing in (that wasn’t in text form). This being a Nintendo game you could actually disable the bad language if you wanted. This was also probably the first 18 certificate game I ever purchased for myself, which is equivalent to a Mature rating in America.  Violent games were still present but in this generation games didn’t quite push the boundaries of mature content.

Manhunt cutscene

Manhunt cutscene

When we get to the PS2 and Xbox era I started to see some big changes. By this stage a vast majority of the games were rated for mature audiences. Since voice acting was becoming practically standard in games we also started to see cut scenes with a lot of swearing. Grand Theft Auto III (GTA III) was probably the first game I remember hearing the F-bomb being dropped regularly [Editor’s Note: It was actually not said in GTA III, it was once in Vice City, and plenty in San Andreas]. Sticking with GTA III we also saw sexual content start to come into play. Remember when you could pick up a prostitute? You literally drove her to an alley watched your car rock then you could literally kill her for your money back.  The sexual content itself was non-existent, if you moved the camera all you really saw was the car rocking back and forth while your characters appeared to just sit there gazing into the distance, possibly thinking about cheese. GTA III pretty much ticked every box when it comes to mature content as it also included heavy drug references. GTA III was where we started seeing parents become increasing suspicious of what their kids were playing.  GTA: Vice City certainly hit the headlines due to its violent content. A game that really pushed the violence was a little title called Manhunt first released in PS2 then later on Xbox and PC, this title really was horrific in terms of violence. In this game you could stealth kill enemies and then sit back and watch a short cutscene of your character brutally murdering his prey. This game was actually banned in the UK due to an article in a popular national news paper reporting a child had killed another child and cited the game Manhunt was his inspiration. This was the first game I personally played and thought “yeah, you probably don’t want your kids playing this.” One game that decided to push the sexual content boundaries was Fahrenheit (aka Indigo Prophecy) for PS2, Xbox, and PC. This was the first game I remember playing to feature full frontal nudity, which just looked weird, as well as sex scenes you could actually control. It’s probably worth pointing out the press in the UK had many issues with the “Hot Coffee” mini game in GTA: San Andreas which features two characters grinding on each other fully clothed, but completely missed Fahrenheit, which allows you to control a naked man on top of a naked women. Then again I guess that’s the press for you.

Finally we come into the more modern generation. Games these days continue to push the boundaries in violence, sexual content, and of course bad language. But why I briefly wanted to touch on this generation was because a lot of the bad language you now hear isn’t coming from the game itself, but from the multiplayer. To this day its difficult to go into any Halo or Call of Duty multiplayer match and not hear several swears being dropped in quick succession or various other insults (see below).


It’s kinda funny thinking about this topic. Games have really grown up as I have. I guess the question is, would I allow my own kids to play mature games? Well in all honesty it really depends on the game. Some games these days contain incredibly mature content which I would absolutely agree a 5-year-old should not be subjected to. Oddly enough I probably wouldn’t have much of a problem with young people playing the mature games I played when I was young such as Mortal Kombat because although its violent, its goofy violence and very tame in comparison to what games are capable of now. My parents did monitor the sorts of games we played but generally were happy with the content especially in the older generation consoles. My parents’ main concern was that we finished our homework, did our chores, and spent quality time with the family.  Please note this article is intended to show you my personal experience growing up with mature rated games, so please don’t mistake it for a suggestion as to how I think you should raise your kids.

Written by jamalais

April 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in Blog

Tagged with , , , ,

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