Video games come in all shapes and sizes and, as with any types of media or art, there have been some episodes that have been the subject of fierce debate. In no particular order, here are 10 of the most controversial video game moments of the 21st century.
Death of Joel in The Last of Us 2
The Last of Us was arguably the best game ever made, pairing up grizzled, embittered Joel with plucky surrogate daughter Ellie. The sequel was always going to have a hard time living up to expectations, but Naughty Dog’s decision to have Joel brutally murdered right in front of Ellie has divided the fanbase. Not only in the manner of his death, but that it was done as an act of revenge, yet Ellie was allowed to live (facilitating the story) in a decision that could be considered naïve at best, and obviously stupid at worst.
The Ending of Mass Effect 3
The Mass Effect trilogy is one of the most popular sci-fi series in video game history, with a well-realised universe, great voice acting, and compelling plots. All that made it engaging to play but also the final ending inexplicably poorly executed. After battling the seemingly unstoppable Reapers the end result was to gift the player some exposition that made them seem far less menacing and then alter the colour of an explosion. It’s not Game of Thrones season 8 bad, but it certainly underwhelmed players, many of whom felt their choices earlier in the games simply didn’t matter.
Sub-Zero the Spine Ripper
Mortal Kombat is one of the best known and most long-lived gaming franchises, but from the early days through to more recent iterations it’s been the object of dislike for some. This is largely due to the brutal nature of fatalities, special opponent-destroying moves. Every character has one, and popular fighter Sub-Zero’s signature spine ripper move certainly gets the job done (both in terms of annoying the concerned and ending foes).
Grand Theft Auto 5 and the Very Controversial Refund
Grand Theft Auto 5, or earlier entries in the series, could be on the list of controversial video game moments for various reasons but perhaps the most notorious is the way prostitutes can be treated by players. Paying for sex might be controversial enough, but players are able to murder a hooker and then get their money back, which is plain cruel. Another controversial aspect is the betting establishment within the game, where players can indulge in various different games but unlike the top range of online casino games at 888 Casino, there’s no chance of making real cash prizes.
Metal Gear Solid 2
This might be hard to appreciate if you weren’t around at the time, but MGS2’s main character Raiden caused a huge furore. Players loved MGS and were thrilled to be reunited with protagonist Solid Snake. Only they weren’t (excepting the brief prologue). Instead of the gruff, grizzled veteran, we got the youthful, long-haired Raiden. And most people were somewhere between shocked and very unhappy at the unexpected shift.
The Man Festival in Shadow Hearts: Covenant
Shadow Hearts: Covenant is an amazing game in many ways, from the great ring mechanic to sharp dialogue and engaging characters. It’s also quirky, and nothing is quirkier or more controversial than the Man Festival. Hilarious and/or outrageous, the Man Festival involves nothing less than a 100 tier wrestling ring tower and epic combat between a blonde vampire and the Great Gama, and the tussling might involve more than just wrestling…
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: No Russian
CoD has been around for a while and hit its most controversial note with the No Russian mission of Modern Warfare 2. It’s optional, but still caught media headlines, and not in a good way. The player is embedded within a Russian terrorist organisation and participates in an airport massacre. Most players felt terrible after completing the mission, and it’s unlikely we’ll see a major FPS game go down this route again.
Silent Hill 2 and Pyramid Head’s Rape Scene
Horror fans consider Silent Hill 2 to be one of the all-time greatest hits of the gaming world, and it’s easy to see why. But some things go too far even for horror, and it might be that terrifying enemy Pyramid Head’s antics fall into that category. When the game was re-released in HD the scene in which he rapes two mannequins were quietly removed, to the sound of sighs of relief rather than a wave of complaints.
Outlast (Whistle Blower DLC)
Sticking with the horror that’s a bit too horrible theme, we come to Outlast’s Whistle Blower DLC, the follow-up to the popular base game. In eye-watering scenes, one NPC performs gruesome surgery on male characters to make them into women. Not only that, this almost happens to the protagonist, treating the player to a close up look at near castration. Thankfully, the player manages to survive intact, but even for the thick-skinned, this is pretty damned grisly and could be considered controversial.
With a name like the Punisher, you can’t be surprised when the character’s a hardcore violence machine. More anti-hero than spandex-clad do-gooder, the Punisher is all about harming criminals. To give an idea of how rough the treatment of criminals was, the UK’s BBFC required the violence to be moderated so that the rating of 18 could be awarded. Feeding a man into a woodchipper was a particular highlight.
Those are 10 of the most controversial moments in videogame history, from brutal deaths to completely subverting player expectations and producing a huge fanbase backlash. You can find more opinion pieces like this controversial video games moment one right HERE.