Pokémon was banned in certain countries for promoting the idea of evolution

As Pokémon was being embraced by kids across the globe, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia was placing a ban on it. In 2001, he prevented both the games and all their associated merchandise from hitting shelves, primarily because they promoted the idea of evolution. The nation also claimed the trading of Pokémon cards constituted gambling, and so had to be discouraged.

Indonesia’s president banned Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow because he thought the game’s title threatened him personally

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow was taken off shelves in Indonesia as its plot included a fictional terrorist group called Darah dan Doa, which translates to ‘Blood and Prayer’. The country’s president at the time, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, considered the presence of the fictional group to be a direct threat to his life and banned the game outright. Yikes!

China banned Football Manager for recognising Tibet

It would be surprising enough to hear that any FIFA game had been banned, but Football Manager? A game where you don’t even play, you just organise teams? The gameplay wasn’t to blame for China putting a ban on this 2005 release though, more the fact that it recognised Tibet as an independent nation. An edited version with Tibet removed was eventually made available to purchase.

Counter-Strike was banned in Brazil for having a favela map

In 2008, the Brazilian federal court drew sales of Counter-Strike to a halt as, in their opinion, the game brought “imminent stimulus to the subversion of the social order, attempting against the democratic and rightful state and against the public safety.” In other words, they weren’t happy that one of the maps in the game bore a passing resemblance to a favela.

Denmark banned EA Sports MMA for promoting energy drinks

The Danes are a bastion of progressive policy, living happily in a thriving economy with robust education and healthcare systems while the rest of the world argues over whether or not to tax billionaires or close their off-shore havens. However, Denmark had no time for EA Sports MMA, and not because of the violence. It is against Danish law to market specific energy drinks to consumers which MMA obviously does, and so the game had to go.

Saints Row IV was banned in Australia thanks to a raunchy weapon

Saints Row IV was a smash-hit success pretty much a success everywhere except Australia. Why? Because the game featured a weapon with the name “alien an*l probe” and that just didn’t pass muster down under. Australian authorities claimed that this “obviously” promoted sexual violence, and so was not wholesome enough to be sold.

GTA: Episodes from Liberty City was banned in Brazil for plagiarism

The inherent violence of Grand Theft Auto games didn’t ruffle the feathers of a civilian court in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but the music certainly did. As it happens, there was a song in the expansion for Episodes from Liberty City that used a sample of Bota o Dedinho pro Alto by composer Hamilton Lourenço da Silva without permission. Whoops!

China banned Devotion for comparing President Xi to Winnie the Pooh

Devotion was banned in China after background details like posters were revealed to be poking fun at Chinese President Xi Jinping, comparing him to Winnie the Pooh. Now, Winnie the Pooh is a very touchy subject in Jinping’s circles, so much so that he has banned any media featuring the lovable bear. Most recently, the Winnie the Pooh horror film Blood and Honey was pulled from Hong Kong theatres.

Australia banned Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure for promoting graffiti

Marc Eckō’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure is obviously garbage, but most people would agree that people should be free to indulge in garbage if they want to. That’s not how Australia looks at it, however. The Federal Attorney-General called for a ban on this game because of its “high impact themes” which apparently glorified graffiti.

Brazil banned Everquest for apparently encouraging players to become evil

Everquest was released in 1999 but it wasn’t until October 2007 that it got itself into a whole heap of legal trouble over in Brazil. A federal court there ruled that the game encouraged “the subversion of public order” thanks to the fact that players could choose to be good or evil within the Everquest world.

The UK banned Manhunt 2 for “snuff porn”

Manhunt 2 was “refused classification” in the United Kingdom which more or less means it was too violent to even receive a rating, which some may see as a badge of honour. Rockstar later edited the game to obscure the gore. It was also banned in Germany, Ireland, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea.

Mexico banned Ghost Recon 2 for its negative portrayal of a city

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 isn’t just one the longest video game titles ever, but it’s also one of the only games to receive a nationwide ban in Mexico. The mayor of Ciudad Juarez wasn’t happy with the game painting his city as unsafe (despite its high crime rate) and convinced the governor of Chihuahua to forbid any copies of it from being sold.

Postal 2 banned for “urination”

The Postal series is problematic, to put it lightly. It does not shy away from a whole manner of violent and outright offensive content. New Zealand, unlike most other countries, just couldn’t get on board with this release and cited “urination” as one of its justifications for recall. That being said, they also cited “animal cruelty, homophobia, racial, and ethnic stereotypes”, which check out.

Oklahoma banned Custer’s Revenge over a pixelated p*nis

In 1982’s Custer’s Revenge, players control a horny General Custer (equipped with a pixelated p*nis) whose only goal is to essentially poke a Native American woman. This was understandably met with disdain. Feminist Andrea Dworkin claimed it had “generated many gang rapes of Native American women.” There was no evidence to back this up but Oklahoma City, Oklahoma passed a measure banning sales of the game all the same.

China banned Command and Conquer over a nuclear bomb scene

Command and Conquer: Generals’ story mode opens with a nuclear bomb dropping on Beijing, followed by the destruction of the Three Gorges Dam. Over in the real Beijing, this didn’t go down too well with the Chinese government, who slapped a ban on the entire series.

The UK banned Under Ash for being “terrorist propaganda”

Under Ash was developed as a deliberate reaction to the western games that depicted the Middle East as the enemy, putting players in the position of a Palestinian Liberation fighter taking on the Israeli Defence Force. After the 2005 London bombings, Under Ash was added to a list of media cited as “terrorist propaganda.”

India banned PUBG Mobile for radicalisation fears

PUBG is a battle royale killathon in which players are pitted against each other in a single arena. Whoever’s the last person standing, wins. The mobile version of PUBG was banned in both India and Nepal over fears that young players would be radicalised by the themes. It was reported that people were arrested for continuing to play the game after the ban.

China banned Animal Crossing for politically-charged patterns

Animal Crossing: New Horizons became a Nintendo Switch staple for hundreds and thousands of players across the globe. Part of what makes this game so fun is how players can make custom patterns that can be placed on clothing, dotted around the island, or in players’ houses. A trend of people making politically-charged patterns resulted in China banning the game.

Vietnam banned Mega Man 5 for a napalm reference

One of the bosses in 1992’s Mega Man 5 is Napalm Man, a robot whose level is set in a woodland area rife with tiger-looking enemies. It doesn’t take a genius to understand why it was banned in Vietnam. The Napalm Man’s level, and his own name, have striking similarities to the landscapes of Vietnam and its devastating war with America.

Uzbekistan banned The Sims 3 and 4 for “pornography”

Players can bump uglies in The Sims, but it’s hardly explicit. Any and all illicit activities result in a blurry farce at worst, which is how the games have retained their family-friendly rating. Still, the third and fourth entries into the series were banned in Uzbekistan as any game that is “used to propagate violence, pornography, threaten security and social and political stability” is considered to have no place on shelves.

India banned Fallout 3 over a mutant cow

A mutant, two-headed cow is weird, there’s no question of that. However, to people living outside of India, strange and maybe a little uncomfortable is all it is. Within India though, the two-headed cow is a highly offensive bastardisation of an animal many consider sacred. Hindus slated the mutant Brahmin not just because it depicted the sacred creature but also because it shared the name of a Hindu castle.

Japan banned Crash Bandicoot 2 for decapitation

In the original Crash Bandicoot 2, there was a section of the game wherein Crash’s body was squashed into a floating head with feet. This imagery specifically led to Japan banning the game, as it was too close to a depiction of decapitation, which the country stringently avoids. In 1997, a gruesome crime in which a child beheaded a fellow pupil shook Japan, leading to the avoidance of the imagery ever since.

Malaysia banned Pokemon GO for promoting the search for power

Pokemon GO was banned in a host of countries, usually for flaws in its security system. Malaysia’s reason was wholly different, however. The official reason was given as “promoting the search for power”. Good luck getting an explanation of that from us. Eventually, the ban was repealed, likely because the original justification made no sense, and Malaysian gamers lived happily ever after.

Belgium banned Mario Kart over gambling breaches

Despite its wholesome vibe and family-friendly gameplay, Mario Kart was outlawed in Belgium for going against the country’s strict gambling laws. Rather than being targeted specifically, the game fell victim to the country’s 2018 loot box ban, which made it illegal for any game available in the country to feature them.

Katana Zero was banned for having a character hooked on Chronos

Katana Zero is a simple one-hit-kill combat game, and so the true obstacle the protagonist faces is withdrawal. Throughout the story, the main character runs out of the substance Chronos and must take more to keep experiencing the passage of time. Australia has no time for any game that features drugs as a positive, no matter how high concept they may be, and so a national ban was quickly placed on Katana Zero.

The US banned Too Human for “misappropriation of trade secrets”

In 2007, Silicon Knights sued Epic Games for breach of contract, accusing them of not offering adequate support and missing deadlines. Silicon Knights was using Epic’s Unreal Engine three to develop the game. Epic then countersued Silicon Knights for “copyright infringement, breach of contract [and the] misappropriation of trade secrets”. A federal judge put the row to bed by ordering that the production of Too Human be halted and all remaining units be destroyed.

Thrill Kill was banned over BDSM imagery

This Mortal Kombat homage/rip-off decided to chase originality by incorporating a BDSM angle. As a result, it was promptly slapped with an “Adults Only” rating from the ESRB. Publisher Virgin Interactive tried to appeal the decision to no avail and the plug was pulled on Thrill Kill before it even hit shelves, knowing that the Adults Only rating would seriously decimate profits.

Paranautical Activity was banned over death threats

The creator of Paranautical Activity didn’t receive death threats, he sent them himself. Mike Maulbeck went on a tirade when Steam failed to update Paranautical Activity’s product description to clarify that it was no longer in early access. Worried this would hurt sales, Maulebeck tweeted: “I am going to kill gabe newell. He is going to die”, Gabe Newell being Valve’s president. Maulbeck was kicked off Twitter and Paranautical Activity bit the dust. Yikes.

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut was banned for showing substance abuse

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut doesn’t waste time. In the very first scene, the main character wakes up so wrecked from the night before that he is forced to reckon with extreme amnesia. Throughout the game, players can consume all manner of substances to win benefits in dialogue and combat, thus glorifying the use of substances. It was banned in Australia, which has many laws in place to discourage binge drinking, for this very reason.

Injustice: Gods Among Us was banned for including the word “Gods”

DC game Injustice: Gods Among Us was temporarily banned in the United Arab Emirates, allegedly because of the word “Gods”. The plural implies polytheism, a belief that the Islamic religion doesn’t subscribe to. The ban was eventually lifted, presumably when they realized the Gods in question were make-believe superheroes and not historical deities.

Dragon Age: Inquisition was banned by India for “same-gender romance”

A draconian law from 1861 in India banned Dragon Age: Inquisition from shelves upon its release. EA had to take the L when India’s obscenity laws prohibited the game from being sold, thanks to its gay content and characters. Though the game did have multiple instances of queer romance, many thought the governmental response was too extreme.

Battlefield 3 was banned by Iran for the fictional attack on Tehran

Battlefield 3 didn’t go down too well with the Iranian government thanks to its depiction of a major assault on Tehran, the country’s capital. Stores that sold the game were raided, and copies were seized. There were even reports of people being arrested for possession of Battlefield 3. Iran claimed America was only trying to further stoke the tense relations between the two countries.

Mass Effect was banned by Singapore for cross-species relationships

Singapore doesn’t want anything to do with alien romances. In Mass Effect, players can start a relationship with a member of the Asari race, who are gender neutral but feminine in appearance. The city-state of Singapore put a big fat ban on this, causing outrage in the local gaming community, who believed they had the right to fall in love with aliens.

Germany banned Hatred for being hateful

The aptly-titled Hatred is a game where players go on a murdering spree with the only motivation of killing as many people as they can. Germany banned the game for its spread of hate and murder, on top of its gruesome graphics. Hatred was even banned on Steam for a while following its release and remains one of the games that is blocked from being streamed on Twitch.

I.G.I.-2: Covert Strike was banned for its damaging depiction of the Chinese army

The not at all annoying to type I.G.I.-2: Covert Strike features a rogue Chinese General called Wu Xing who navigates various obstacles, including the Russian mafia, in order to secure electromagnetic pulse weaponry on a space rocket. It was banned in China after sixth months because it was “intentionally blackening China and the Chinese army’s image”.

South Korea banned Homefront for a negative portrayal of a unified Korea

Homefront is a first-person shooter which tells the story of a futuristic resistance movement fighting against reunified Korea’s military occupation of the United States. Obviously, the South Koreans would like to establish a peaceful solution with their neighbours and didn’t appreciate this savage depiction of a theoretical future Korea.

Saudi Arabia banned the 2010 South Africa World Cup for “kicking Allah’s name”

One of the fun features of the pretty forgettable 2010 South Africa World Cup game released by EA is that individual countries got their own special ball. This posed problems for Saudi Arabia as many Muslim fans complained that it violated Shahada for allowing players to “kick Allah’s name”. An update was later made to change the design of their ball to something less blasphemous.

The Race Against Time was banned for the unauthorised use of Jesse Owens’ image

The original print of this 1988 adventure game from the UK was banned for its unauthorised use of American track and field legend Jesse Owens’ image. The game’s protagonist was made to highly resemble Owens, despite the fact that the man himself was never approached. Later, updated prints used a picture of Carl Lewis, who offered his likeness for free to benefit the Sport Aid charity.

Sonic Blast Man was banned for literally injuring players

Not all games are banned for the themes or influence they have on young impressionable players. Some are banned for the physical impact they have. Take Sonic Blast Man for example, which caused many fractured or injured wrists and arms as a result of the Blastman’s punching pad which they were encouraged to hit.

Spec Ops: The Line was banned for showing a ravaged Dubai

Spec Ops: The Line was banned thanks to the fictional, emphasis on fictional there , depiction of the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai in a state of complete ruin and destruction. The ban then spread to Jordan and Lebanon, as other governments objected to the idea of the area being shown to have fallen into disrepair. Local retailers like Geekay Games were forbidden from selling the game via their online shops to any UAE residents.

Mortal Kombat (2011) was banned for violence

Mortal Kombat has never claimed to be a peaceful, serene game by any standards. It was the ninth instalment of the game that ended up being banned in South Korea for no reason other than the kind of violence which had already been present in every other game so far. This was particularly unusual for a country where multiplayer fighting games are very popular.

Darksiders was banned for religious imagery

A lot of stories include religious imagery and storylines, particularly under closer analysis. The thing is that Darksiders is not particularly subtle about the religious undertones and imagery in the game. This is what got the game banned in UAE. What makes this odd, though, is that only the physical disc version of the first game was banned, yet the digital version as well as the sequel game were both considered suitable for release.

Grand Theft Auto 4 was banned because of a copycat criminal

When it comes to violent games that involve crime, there is often a public concern that people will be influenced by the game and seek to commit similar crimes. This actually happened in Thailand following the release of Grand Theft Auto 4, after the government blamed the game for the actions of a young man who robbed and shot a taxi driver.

Bully was banned for promoting bullying

Bully is considered to be like GTA, but actually for kids. It is more a satirical game than anything else, intended to be funny and uncomfortable simultaneously. They didn’t get the joke in Brazil, though. There, the game was seen to be promoting the act of bullying and this led to the government banning the game over fears of children being adversely affected.

Dead Rising was banned for killing “humans”

Dead Rising is a series of video games about zombies, and like many other games of this nature, they involve the killing of undead zombies. All three of the Dead Rising games have been either censored or banned in Germany because the enemies in the games are too close to human, as well as being unarmed. Considering the state of other games that Germany hasn’t banned, it seems an odd place to draw the line. The ban on violent material was actually lifted in 2018 but it remains on a list of harmful media.

Far Cry 3 was banned for its poor portrayal of Indonesia

If you are a Far Cry fan, it’s likely you agree with most players that the third game is the best of them. That’s what makes this unfortunate for Indonesian players, as the game is actually banned there. In the judge’s defence, the game does portray Indonesia as supremely unpleasant light, even comparing it to Hell.

KZ Manager was banned for its entire premise

The fact that KZ Manager ever got made was a complete mistake. You play as a concentration camp manager in this game – and, no, not working undercover trying to save everyone. This makes it completely unsurprising that the game was banned in Germany, and has remained so. The fact it wasn’t banned everywhere is likely the more surprising matter.

Homefront was banned for political provocation

In Homefront, the United States has been occupied by North Korea and you are fighting against those in power. South Korea actually banned the game because they thought it might pose a risk. The South Korean censors feared that if the game was released and marketed there, this might provoke an angry response from the neighbouring North Korean government.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was banned for killing Russians

The Call of Duty game franchise is all about shooting and therefore killing your opponents. The problem with series entry Modern Warfare 2 was that one particular mission involved shooting Russians. This one was not actually banned in the end, but the Russian government did not think their people should even kill fake video game Russians. For this reason, Modern Warfare 2 was altered to the point of being a totally different game on Russian soil.

Battlefield 4 was banned for making Pakistan the villain

The fourth Battlefield game is not the only one to have been banned as you can see earlier on this list. In Battlefield 4, the bad guys are Pakistani, which led to Pakistan banning the game. They did not stop there though, as selling or purchasing this game within Pakistan’s borders can result in you serving jail time if you are caught. A dramatic punishment for a video game!

Sex Vixens from Space was banned to “protect the youth of today”

Free Spirit Software – the developers of 1989’s Sex Vixens from Space – didn’t even bother submitting their game to British censors, presumably knowing what the outcome would be. They weren’t wrong; when a shipment of official copies arrived at British customs, the games were immediately seized and destroyed, with the government claiming it had acted to “protect the youth of today.”

State of Decay had to change drugs to vitamins

Yet another game which ran afoul of Australian censors, State of Decay was banned for its conceit of handing out drugs to players as a bonus for successfully completing missions. To get around the ban, the game’s developers agreed to change the drugs to vitamins, an alteration which somewhat detracted from game’s edgy tone.

Hearts of Iron was banned in China for being historically accurate

The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t take kindly to anything which contradicts its official view that Taiwan is a part of China’s territory. This proved to be a problem for Hearts of Iron, which – since it’s set during the buildup to WWII – lists Taiwan as under Japanese control. While this is historically accurate, it still led to the game getting slapped with a ban in China.

Tropico 5 was banned in Thailand for affecting “peace and order”

The Tropico games allow players to take control of a tropical island nation, which they can choose to rule as a benevolent democrat or a ruthless dictator. The game happened to be released the day after Thailand’s military seized power in a coup, and one of the junta’s first acts was to ban the game on the grounds that it might “affect peace and order in the country.”

South Korea banned kids from playing Minecraft

In 2021, the South Korean government banned children from playing Minecraft between the hours of 12am and 6am. To enforce the ban, players weren’t able to access the game without an Xbox Live Account. Since you have to be over 18 to open such an account, this meant that the game – which is explicitly marketed at kids – was effectively given an 18+ rating.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift was banned in the UAE for being morally corrupting

A side scrolling brawler, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift follows in the aesthetic footsteps of other games in the genre; in other words, there are a lot of scantily clad women. This put the game in the crosshairs of the United Arab Emirates’ censors, who banned the game to save players from being ‘morally corrupted’ by the lascivious costumes.

Three Sisters’ Story was banned in NZ for ‘encouraging’ sexual coercion

New Zealand’s censors are known for their draconian approach to certifying games, as they once again proved when they banned Three Sisters’ Story for “promoting the use of violence to compel a person to submit to sexual conduct.” While the game’s narrative does include sexual violence, it’s certainly not promoted, and it clearly has legitimate artistic merit.

Plague Inc. was banned in China because of the pandemic

Inspired by the movie Contagion and released in 2012, Plague Inc. lets you play as a pathogen with the goal of eradicating the human race. While the game remains popular around the world, the Chinese government got rather touchy about the subject of pandemics in 2020, and Plague Inc. been banned in the country ever since.

Dante’s Inferno was banned in Malaysia for showing the Christian Hell

A hack-and-slash adventure inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, Dante’s Inferno sees players battle their way down through the nine Circles of Hell. A mere week after its release, the game was banned in Malaysia because depictions of Judeo-Christian iconography are strictly prohibited by Sharia Law.

Fallout 3 was banned in Australia for drugs

One of the power-ups that players can use in Fallout 3 is morphine, an opioid painkiller commonly used in medical settings. According to the Australian government, this explicitly promotes substance abuse, and censors refused to certify the game unless Bethesda removed the ability to use morphine from Australian copies of the game, which the developer ultimately agreed to do.

Danganronpa V3: killing Harmony was banned in South Korea because of a real murder

The third instalment in the Danganronpa franchise, Killing Harmony revolves around a group of high-school students forced into a brutal game of survival. Shortly before the game was due to be released in South Korea, a 17-year-old girl made headlines by murdering an eight-year-old, and the game was banned to avoid provoking controversy.

Wolfenstein was banned in Germany for its far-right iconography

Given its history, Germany is understandably sensitive about anything far-right, implementing strict laws outlawing the symbols of hateful organizations. A number of games have been banned there for including far-right iconography, including Wolfenstein. A censored version was available in the country, until someone spotted a Swastika that had slipped through the cracks, leading to another ban.

Fight of Gods was banned in Malaysia for featuring deities

A game that allows players to square off against each other as deities from various religions was always going to be controversial, and Fight of Gods has unsurprisingly been banned in a number of countries. The most extreme response came from Malaysia, which completely blocked access to Steam until the company agreed to remove the game from its Malaysian store.

Roblox is banned in Guatemala for ‘violating children’s safety’

Roblox is one of the most popular games of all time, with over half of all under 16s in America reporting that they’ve played it. While Roblox is a global sensation, the Guatemalan government decided to ban the game in 2021, over concerns that predators could use it to groom children and adolescents.

Mighty Mouth was banned for being a blatant Pac Man ripoff

Released in the early 80s, Pac Man became an instant hit, raking in serious cash for Atari and Midway, the studio which developed the game. Eager to get in on the action, independent developer A1-Machines quickly rushed out Mighty Mouth, a blatant Pac Man ripoff that was almost immediately banned after Atari took aggressive legal action.

Clash of Kings was banned in India for being a Chinese game

In June 2020 – after clashes between Indian and Chinese border troops inflamed tensions between the two countries – the Indian government banned a number of mobile apps because of their Chinese ownership. The most popular of these apps was Clash of Kings, an online multiplayer game which was downloaded over 65 million times in its first year of release.

Baby Shaker was banned for encouraging infanticide

Released on the App Store in 2009, Baby Shaker’s gameplay is as simple as it is wildly insensitive; a crying baby appears onscreen, and you shake your phone until it goes silent and two red crosses appear over its eyes. Unsurprisingly, Apple quickly realized that profiting from a game which encourages the murder of babies isn’t the best of looks, and it hastily pulled the game from its store.

Witcher 2 was banned for rewarding with players with sex

The second instalment in the Witcher franchise features a scene in which the player is offered sex as a reward for completing a quest, which apparently offended the sensibilities of Australia’s prudish censors. In the end, a compromise was reached: the scene was allowed to be kept in the game, but players couldn’t be given the option to accept the offer.

Carmageddon was banned in multiple countries for depicting hit and runs

GTA has consistently sparked controversy by allowing players to commit wanton acts of violence against innocent bystanders, but it’s far from the first game to do so. Released in 1997, Carmageddon rewards players for mowing down pedestrians – with extra points on offer if they did so in style – earning the game bans in a number of countries, including Argentina and the United Kingdom.

God of War was banned in the UAE for its religious themes

Although it was initially released in the United Arab Emirates, a deluge of complaints about the game’s religious themes led to the first God of War game getting slapped with a ban. The ban remained active for most of the subsequent instalments in the franchise, although in 2018 it was finally relaxed.