What’s a few kinks in an otherwise smooth and wrinkle-free video game? Well, quite a hassle, as it goes — especially when trying to sell said game to a board that spots creases like a hawk over a rat infestation. And yet, despite the hassle that gravitates towards controversial subjects and the likes, developers have and still continue to try their luck against the world, hoping that their risqué visions are able to make it out scot-free.
We’ve seen plenty of hit-and-miss games over the years, and have often found ourselves in shock over what’s actually managed to make it out onto the market without so much as a slap on the wrist. But then, of course, there are the others — games that have seen their fair share of harsh critiques and still managed to stay afloat despite the waves of backlash. Just take these five, for example. How these managed to survive the launch and best the board is beyond me, to be honest.
Rockstar hasn’t exactly been shy when it comes to implementing risqué content into the world, that’s for sure. Just take a look at Grand Theft Auto, for example, or, more importantly — Manhunt, which managed to test the very moral fiber of the team behind it over its questionable development stages.
To put it out there — Manhunt wasn’t a bad game. But it was, however, enough to test the people that spent years trying to build it. Although a sequel was given the green light after its release, some employees did feel a little ashamed of their questionable taste in entertainment. “There was almost a mutiny at the company over the game,” former Rockstar employee Jeff Williams explained in 2007. “[It] just made us all feel icky. It was all about the violence, and it was realistic violence. We all knew there was no way we could explain away that game. There was no way to rationalize it. We were crossing a line.”
4. New York Defender
Now, there are some real-world events that can be tiptoed into for educational purposes — and some that just shouldn’t be touched with a barge pole. The American tragedy, 911, is one for the latter, and in no way shape or form a vessel for a video game idea. However, despite its blatant controversial themes, one team still went ahead and ignored the red flags, and effectively created New York Defender. And let me tell you — it did not go down too well. Like, at all.
Of course, the game itself does involve having to fend off a series of aircrafts — but that’s still no excuse to cash-in on one of the darkest days in American history. Even for shock value alone, New York Defender shouldn’t have been created and distributed to the world. It’s something that’s best left undisturbed, and in no way a thing that should be exploited for gaming purposes. But unfortunately, it did launch all over the web, and is still available today on a round of flash game websites.
3. JFK: Reloaded
While on the subject of tasteless video games, it seems only right that we cast a shadow over JFK: Reloaded, a game that aimed to recreate the assassination of John F. Kennedy with a poorly-crafted first-person shooter experience. Even with Scottish developer Traffic Software claiming the game was made for educational purposes, it just didn’t go down too well with the global audience overall. But we can see why. It’s just…not right.
Taking a sensitive situation and attempting to profit from it is one thing, sure. But putting players in none other than Lee Harvey Oswald’s shoes, on the other hand, is just extremely poor taste, and something that shouldn’t have been attempted. And yet, JFK: Reloaded had you recreating the assassination and building up points based on how well you replicated the actual event. So, you can probably understand why people weren’t overly keen on defending the developer when they slumped down into the heated seat.
2. Postal 2
As far as games shrouded with ambivalence go, Postal 2 pretty much still wears the crown. Thanks to its jumped-up violence and references to drugs, terrorists and practically everything else deemed controversial in the gaming format, developer Running with Scissors essentially dug their own grave right from the get-go, injecting said scissors right through the heart of their hit-and-miss action tale in the process.
Postal 2 has been the talk of the gaming underworld for a little over a decade now, with some still coining it as the most controversial game ever recorded in history. It’s just, in all honesty, a pretty bold statement, and one that went down like an anchor not long after its release. An anchor that, weirdly enough, managed to garner a loyal following several years after its release. Go figure.
It might seem a little tame in comparison to Rockstar’s other works in the blood-riddled portfolio, but Bully, believe it or not — had quite a tough time with the majority of the world after its launch. Mainly from parents, of course, who despised the thought of the game going on to influence children to bully their own fellow students and derail from the teenage curriculum entirely. And that’s understandable, considering the whole point of the game is to torment other school cliques for the sake of, well…popularity.
Of course, it didn’t stop fans of the game from requesting a sequel which, to this day, still very much circles the community. At the time of release, however, people weren’t overly happy with the content that Bully employed. But then, being able to slingshot a teacher in the groin and shove students into toilet bowls — you can sort of see why parents weren’t running out to pick it up for their then-fifteen year old kids. Although, that never stopped the game from being a total knockout in the charts. And to be honest, it really is only a matter of time before Rockstar unveil a sequel. So, while it may be controversial, the idea as a whole definitely sells. And if there’s one thing Rockstar knows how to do well — it’s sell. That’s something no amount of risqué content can tarnish.
So, what video games would you class as being controversial? Do you agree with our list? Have you played any of the above? Let us know over on our socials here.