10 Shockingly Violent Video Games

By DivineCaroline via Common Sense Media

The names of violent video games tend to travel fast among preteen and teen gamers. And the next thing you know, your kid wants to play them.

Common Sense Media’s list of the ten most violent video games is designed to arm you with enough information to help you make informed choices about what to allow your kids to play. And beyond that, they offer less-violent alternatives with the compelling gameplay that kids want.

Why care about violent video games? Prolonged exposure to violent media leads to aggressive behavior, anxiety, bullying, and desensitization. This cause-and-effect relationship is now part of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ official policy to help doctors and parents create a “safer” media environment for kids.

1. Manhunt
Players advance by stalking and killing victims, all for the delight of a “director” who urges you to make the killings bloodier, more cunning, and ever more horrific. Manhunt 2 is more of the same, but now you’ve been injected with a drug to bring out your “homicidal tendencies.”

Alternative: Mirror’s Edge

2. Resident Evil 5
Using guns, swords, or a chainsaw, you shoot, hack, and slash oncoming enemies, producing copious amounts of blood. And the game’s racial undertones are hard to ignore, as the white hero (accompanied by a light-skinned African-American) has to kill mostly black victims infected by the zombie-causing virus.

Alternative: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

3. Dead Rising
Based on the 1978 Dawn of the Dead zombie splatter flick, this game combines gory imagery—like shotgun blasts, chainsaw dismemberment, and hand-to-hand combat—with images of nude women on various objects.

Alternative: Prince of Persia

4. Resident Evil 4
Players must stab, shoot, and bomb their way through hundreds of realistic-looking humans and monsters. Cursing and sexual dialogue round out the mix.

Alternative: Ghostbusters: The Video Game

5. Grand Theft Auto
(Specifically Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) Players can kill other humans, including police officers, or drive into pedestrians on sidewalks and in parks. Gang warfare, beatings, drive-by shootings, and bloody deaths are all shown in gory detail.

Alternative: InFAMOUS

6. God of War II
Players can do everything from ripping the eye out of a Cyclops to twisting the head off of Medusa to slicing off enemies’ arms with chains strapped to their wrists. There’s also a sex mini-game.

Alternative: Batman: Arkham Asylum

7. Mortal Kombat: Deception
The goal of this game is the same as other Mortal Kombats: Kill or be killed, and make it as horrific as you can.

Alternative: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

8. MadWorld
With the Wii remote and Nunchuk in your hands, you simulate the motions used to split someone open with a chainsaw, punch opponents with your fists, or pick up and use assorted objects scattered throughout the levels to dismember, bludgeon, and impale your foes.

Alternative: Punchout

9. Gears of War
You can use a chainsaw to rip apart enemies or machine guns to spray them down. Characters and world are photorealistic, making bloody battles seem even gorier.

Halo Wars

10. Saints Row 2
The protagonist never shows hesitation or remorse, often deliberately choosing the most violent means possible of carrying out missions—declaring such methods “more fun” at least once—and taking pleasure in homicide.

Alternative: Battlefield Heroes

(Compiled by Common Sense Media’s expert game reviewers, who play thousands of video games a year and contribute reviews to USA Today, The Globe and Mail, and Boy’s Life, as well as Common Sense Media .)

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Janie D.
Janie D.2 years ago

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Schwind Stephie
Schwind Stephie4 years ago

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Dian E.
Dian E.4 years ago

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Chiris Jerrycho
Chiris Jerrycho4 years ago

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Theresa K.
Theresa K4 years ago

Well, I commented on this in 2010 and I figured I'd give everyone an update.

Still playing violent video games, watching violent movies, and listening to metal.

Still haven't robbed a bank, ran over a hooker, hit, stabbed, shot, or killed anyone. In fact, I'm petting my cat right now.

Well damn, looks like your theory that "prolonged exposure to violent media leads to aggressive behavior, anxiety, bullying, and desensitization" has just been shot down. Is 3 years prolonged enough for you? How about 22 years? Yep, been killing people in games since then, and I've been violence-free that whole time.

Anyhow, back to shooting FAKE people in a GAME. See you in another 3 years :P

Russell R.
Russell R4 years ago

These games do have a rating system, just like movies, but parents buy them anyway because their child wants them. The only one I evr played was Grand Theft Auto, and it was a challenge to complete the mission. Yes, I did play the criminal, shot cops, blew up fire trucks, and ran down pedestrians. but it was age appropriate for me. It did not make me want to go out and blast police away or blow up fire trucks. It would have been better if you took the same game and you were a soldier caught behind enemy lines and had to make your way out. If parents followed the age ratings on these games, instead of getting them what they want. There would be no problem!

Victoria P.
Victoria P4 years ago

I'm glad to see that so many of the comments here are common sense instead of hysterically anti video game. Thanks everyone! My boys have played some of these "shockingly violent" games since they were little and they are 2 of the best most compassionate people I know. Violence predates electricity. See the Inquisition, torture, any war since the beginning of time and more than several notorious murders throughout history in any strata of society.

Justingaberial J.
Past Member 4 years ago

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Kayleigh Harter
Kayleigh Harter4 years ago

I'm curious as to the criteria used to determine what constitutes "shockingly" violent, as several of the alternatives listed are fairly violent (though perhaps less outright gory) as well. Then again, there is a rating system on games for a reason, and when choosing a game for their child, parents should also exercise common sense. A game that's about WWII soldiers or a zombie apocalypse is probably going to contain violent imagery; if you don't want your 4-year-old exposed to something like that, don't buy it for them. Then when they're older and buying their own games, they can decide whether they prefer to play InFamous or Resident Evil (or who knows, maybe they'll end up liking both).
As for the argument that violent games lead to violent behavior, I think it's more complicated than that. There are a number of factors that influence a person's behavior, and different people respond to a given situation in different ways.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you Mel, for Sharing this!