The lights are on
South Park: The Stick of Truth is heading to retailers soon, and it's sure to have some controversial moments if Trey Parker and Matt Stone's previous work in this universe is any indication. Many games and franchises in the past have stirred up controversy, with some doing it purely for shock value while others have approached offensive material more responsibly. Below, we take a look at five of the most infamous.
Metacritic Average: Series ranges from 24 (Postal III) to 56 (Postal)
The poster child for "offensive for the sake of being offensive," this series was filled with toilet humor, extreme violence, and sexual material. Most of the violence revolves around indiscriminately murdering innocent civilians, and it made some poor attempts at political humor with appearances by Osama bin Laden and Hugo Chavez. The end of the first game would never be seen today, as the main character approaches an elementary school while fully armed. The series has never been warmly received by critics, and the license was eventually used for a film by the king of crappy video game movies, Uwe Boll.
Metacritic Average: Original titles too old for Metacritic, but later entries fall in the 75-88 range
Prior to 1992, most video game violence was either tame or so cartoonish that it didn't offend. When Midway digitized actors for Mortal Kombat, things changed. With gory fatalities that featured a level of brutality previously unseen, the fighter shocked parents and lawmakers. A U.S. Congressional hearing was called to discuss the game, resulting in the formation of the ESRB. Despite the controversy, the series has typically been well-regarded amongst gamers and critics. More hardcore fighters like Street Fighter usually grab the attention of the tournament crowd, but the over-the-top action of Mortal Kombat has remained a favorite for more than two decades.
Metacritic Average: N/A
Scheduled for release in 1998, this Virgin Interactive fighter was cancelled due to overwhelming pre-release controversy. Featuring characters like a dominatrix, a gimp, and conjoined twins, the game featured mid-match dismemberment. The game was actually complete, but Electronic Arts pulled the plug on the title when they acquired Virgin Interactive. Fearing that such a violent game would hurt their image, EA completely buried it rather than sell it to another publisher.
Grand Theft Auto
Metacritic Average: Series ranges from 70 (Grand Theft Auto 2) to 98 (Grand Theft Auto IV)
Gaming's undisputed king of controversy is Rockstar's long-running and wildly successful open world franchise. The worlds of Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas are filled to the brim with four-letter words, sex workers, drugs, theft, and limitless violence (often directed at law enforcement). Each release has seen increased amounts of attention from mainstream media outlets, and the franchise has consistently worried parents of young children. Despite this, the games have consistently received widespread critical acclaim (especially once the series went to 3D in 2001). Grand Theft Auto is certainly controversial, but it's an undeniable phenomenon both critically and commercially.
Metacritic Average: 76
Grand Theft Auto isn't the only series that Rockstar has courted controversy with. While it didn't have as much sexual content as GTA, Manhunt certainly surpassed it in terms of sheer gore. Former Rockstar employee Jeff Williams even stated that members of the development team were uncomfortable about the violence, saying "There was almost a mutiny at the company over that game." Controversy aside, the game managed to score highly in numerous media outlets. It didn't reach the heights of other Rockstar games like GTA or Red Dead Redemption, but it still has its fans.