Following my best-villain post, my son asked me if there were any games where the bad guy was also the good guy. And that got me to thinking: what are some of the most politically incorrect games out there? Not games where the bad guy is the hero, necessarily, but where an anti-hero is given center stage.
Gaming and controversy are not strangers by a long stretch. In fact, it seems like scandal and a little bit of questionable, even risqué behavior is what makes some games so appealing.
Sure, it is great for initial buzz and press, but if you do not have solid gameplay underpinning it all, you have really got nothing at the end of the day.
For this list, I am not really going to focus on quality of gameplay and things like that, but instead on games that just purely caused a stir, because of their controversial approach to their subject matter.
I am going to talk about five games that are extremely politically incorrect, and I will explain why they were a big deal when they came out.
No worries, there are some high-quality titles on this list that are also known for providing stellar gameplay. One game even spawned the highest grossing media property of all time!
Alright, no more talk. Here are the top 5 most politically incorrect games from the past:
(Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that – at no additional cost to you – if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a commission)
5) Mikie (cross-platform 1984)
Filled with violence and bullying at school, this game would not even hit the light of day now.
You play as Mikie, an American student who has to collect hearts in various areas of the school building.
He does so by giving his classmates an ass-bash out of their chairs, but also headbutting teachers, janitors, and any other staff member who is unfortunate to become an enemy of his.
The ultimate goal for him to collect hearts is composing messages from Mandy, his girlfriend.
Mandy is waiting for him outside the school practicing cheerleading, and judging from how quickly they jump into their car and leave upon meeting, it is safe to say that attending classes is not on their agenda, today.
There are no guns or gun violence involved here, “just” headbutting and ass-blasting, but any bullying-focused game is controversial, even if portrayed in a humorous way. Plus we all know that bullying is not cool, and games like this are seen to glorify it, which is a bad thing.
4) Carmageddon (cross-platform 1997)
This title almost presaged the Grand Theft Auto series in many ways, with its depiction of vehicular mayhem and the like. A more recent title than Mikie, Carmageddon combines the words car, karma, and Armageddon in one of the most interesting portmanteaus every constructed, but that is pretty much where the innovation ends.
Crude and somewhat silly and pointless, Carmageddon can best be described as some kind of twisted take on the Pac Man concept where the car is Pac Man and the pedestrians are the power pellets.
3) Postal 2 (PC 2003)
This game is like the dying gasp of the 90s extreme approach to pop culture. It has animal cruelty, crude humor, homophobia… You name it, Postal 2 has it. You see, back in the 90s, being offensive and edgy in a bluntly crude way was considered being edgy or even cool by some standards.
While I now recognize it as evidence of a lack of discipline or insights into society in a meaningful way, I also recognize crude stuff for what it is: largely garbage.
Do not expect smart social commentary or even stuff that is really that funny in Postal 2, a game that strives to offend even itself before it tries to center itself in some kind of existential reasoning.
2) Duke Nukem 3D (Ms-Dos 1996)
The game that Postal 2 wished it was, Duke Nukem 3D has porn, sex, drugs, violence, and much, much more. Taking the classic PC side scrolling games and turning them into this was not what most people expected, but –according to sales – it is all that most people wanted.
Sure, Duke Nukem Forever made this formula’s age deadly apparent, but, back in the day, Duke’s crude humor was likened to that of The Simpsons, South Park, and even other counter-culture icons like Beavis and Butthead. Duke Nukem 3D was not only crude, but it also made sense.
Everything in Duke’s world was the way it was because that was the best way to present Duke: An 80s action-hero type that saves the world while living in a pseudo-Hollywood decadence that everyone can lampoon and envy at the same time.
Honorable mention: Bullfight (arcade 1984)
As the title of this game probably already lets you know, the central conceit of this title is fighting bulls like people do in Spain. It was a little bit controversial in its time, but it is completely inappropriate now.
Why? Mainly because of its depiction of animal cruelty, which is something that the majority of consumers do not go for in one way or the other. Outside of that, it is not a terrible game but it is terribly uncomfortable to play. It is unlikely a game like this would come out today, and definitely not without a fight.
If you are trying to relive the glory days of arcades and want to give this game a try, I do not blame you one bit, but it is not the most compelling game, and the subject matter is somewhat stomach churning.
OKay, number one is next! Guessed it already?
1) Grand Theft Auto (cross-platform 1997)
A title that really needs no introduction. Grand Theft Auto changed the video game landscape when it came out in 1997 and it continues to do so today.
As one of the highest grossing multimedia properties of all time, people have started to recognize GTA as a game as much about social commentary as it is its gameplay. No doubt this is a controversial title – with everything from sex, drugs, and violence to social commentary, political insights, and pop culture comedy – but it is a game that every serious gamer must play.
The bottom line is: do controversy well, and make classics like Duke Nukem or GTA; just do controversy and you will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
And that is all for today, retro folks. Do you have any controversial titles that you think should be part of this list? Then please let me know in the comments below.
Till next post!