12 Video Games That Were Banned in America

Video games are very rarely banned in the United States of America, especially when compared to other countries around the globe.

Governmental oversight is extremely minimal, as the industry is allowed to self-regulate through the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). Even notoriously violent titles like Manhunt 2, The Punisher and Postal were only given "17+ Mature" ratings domestically, and adult content being censored for U.S. release is practically unheard of.

Still, a handful of games have been outlawed in America or, at the very least, had their sales restricted to the point of being virtually unobtainable. These examples are mostly niche and downright obscure, but there are a couple that might surprise you.

Here are 12 games that were effectively banned in the United States. Please note, topics like sexual violence, child pornography, mass shootings and discrimination will all be discussed.

'Custer's Revenge' Banned in Oklahoma

Custer's Revenge Box Art
"Custer's Revenge" is a game in which one controls the titular Colonel as he attempts to rape a Native American captive. Mystique

Custer's Revenge is arguably the most famous example of a banned video game in America, even though it was only declared illegal in one state.

Developed for the Atari 2600 in 1982, the sexually explicit title has the gamer roleplay as a naked Colonel Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The player has to walk from one end of the screen to the other, while dodging a volley of arrows, in order to reach a Native American woman who has been tied to a stake.

Once there, the military commander will proceed to rape the hostage, accumulating points until he is eventually killed. The goal here is to last for as long as possible in order to get the highest score. Think of it like an obscene and racist version of Frogger.

Turning an act of sexual violence into a gameplay mechanic like this inevitably drew the ire of media outlets, feminist activists, members of the Native American community, and lobbyists, all of whom campaigned for Custer's Revenge to be outlawed in the U.S. For its part, developer Mystique tried to brush it off as one big misunderstanding, arguing that the game was not depicting rape but rather an act of seduction to which the woman was consenting.

Despite the national uproar, sales of Custer's Revenge were only forbidden in the state of Oklahoma, which has a high population of residents who identify as Native American. Nowhere else in the U.S. got around to banning the game, but they ultimately did not need to given that, in 1983, Mystique went out of business and production of Custer's Revenge was discontinued.

'The Guy Game' Constitutes Child Pornography

The Guy Game Cover Art
"The Guy Game" was a trivia quiz in which correct answers were rewarded with footage of women taking off their clothes. Take-Two Interactive

Released in 2004, The Guy Game was aimed squarely at the frat house crowd, with an emphasis on female nudity and party culture.

The idea was that friends would compete against one another in a multi-round trivia quiz. Correct answers were rewarded with FMV footage of young spring breakers removing their clothes and, the better one did, the clearer this nudity became. For example, if a player got a string of consecutive right answers, obstructions would gradually disappear from the screen and blurred areas of the women's bodies would come into sharper focus.

While it was certainly raunchy, there is nothing inherent about that premise that would normally warrant a ban in the U.S. However, it later turned out that one of the models used in the live-action segments was actually 17 years old at the time of filming, making her underage. She also alleged that the crew did not properly inform her of how the video would be used, or that it would be featured in a mass-produced game.

This offending footage meant that The Guy Game constituted child pornography in certain territories, including the U.S. where it is now prohibited from ever being sold.

'Too Human' Violated Copyright Law

Too Human Screenshot
"Too Human" was a viking-themed RPG that languished in development hell for years, only to receive lukewarm reviews upon launch. Microsoft Game Studios

When you hear that a game has been banned at a nationwide level, you might assume that it is due to risqué content or fears that it will inspire copycat behavior. A corporate legal dispute is probably not even close to the top of your list, yet more titles have been outlawed in the U.S. for this reason than any other.

Indeed, federal authorities can be quite lenient when it comes to allowing depictions of grisly violence and explicit sexual imagery in games (as you will see later on), but one thing they will not tolerate is copyright infringement.

This is why you were unable to find Too Human anywhere in the U.S. for over a decade. Back in 2007, Silicon Knights (the team behind this largely forgotten, Norse mythology-themed RPG) sued Epic Games for breach of contract. The studio was using Epic's Unreal Engine 3 to develop the game and accused the Fortnite publisher of not offering adequate support and of missing deadlines.

In retaliation, Epic countersued Silicon Nights for "copyright infringement, breach of contract [and the] misappropriation of trade secrets". A federal judge ruled in favor of the complainant, ordering that production of Too Human be halted and that all remaining units were destroyed. This makes it one of only a handful of titles to be totally recalled in America.

'X-Men: Destiny's' Code Was Destroyed

X-Men: Destiny Screenshot
"X-Men: Destiny" was a stablemate of "Too Human," having also been developed by Silicon Knights. In it, players were able to choose between joining the titular superhero group or the villainous Brotherhood of Mutants. Activision

X-Men: Destiny is another unlikely candidate for a ban, as it too was an unfortunate casualty of Epic's legal action against Silicon Knights.

In the aftermath of the Too Human fiasco, Silicon Knights was ordered to "destroy" any code that was created using the Unreal 3 Engine (see page 41 of the court case document), and this applied to the otherwise innocuous superhero title, X-Men: Destiny.

Like with Too Human, it was never strictly illegal to purchase the Marvel Comics tie-in, but you would have a very hard time finding it anywhere in the U.S. Production of new units also ceased, meaning that the only way to play X-Men: Destiny nowadays is to order a second-hand copy from independent sellers online.

Ironically, Too Human (which instigated this whole saga) was made readily available in 2019, when Xbox added it to their backwards compatibility library for free.

'Thrill Kill' Was Slapped With 'Adults Only' Rating for BDSM Content

Thrill Kill Keyart
Taking a leaf out of "Mortal Kombat's" book, "Thrill Kill" was a hyper-gory fighting game. What made it stand out to the ESRB were the sexual undertones that accompanied some of the character designs. Virgin Interactive

Thrill Kill was technically never issued a hard ban, but that is only because the publisher decided to cancel it first.

A Mortal Kombat knock-off with a BDSM twist, this fighting game deliberately courted controversy from the very moment it was announced, marketing itself as the edgiest title to hit the PlayStation in the 1990s. Unfortunately for the developers, they pushed this taboo content so heavily that it ended up backfiring and they were slapped with an "Adults Only" (AO) rating from the ESRB.

For context, this certification is like an informal soft ban, in the sense that it does not explicitly outlaw the product in question but does severely restrict where it can be traded. It is well known that most U.S. merchants flat-out refuse to sell AO-rated games and companies like Nintendo will not even accept them on their platforms.

From a commercial standpoint, it used to be the ultimate kiss of death for a title. If you look up a list of other AO-rated games, the vast majority of them are overtly pornographic and can therefore be stocked in adult retailers, but this was not an option for an aspiring blockbuster like Kill Thrill.

Publisher Virgin Interactive (which had just been acquired by EA) tried unsuccessfully to appeal the decision—in the hope of getting the more accessible "Mature" rating—but in the end they just decided to cut their losses. The plug was pulled on Kill Thrill and it never even saw the light of day.

'Hatred' Was Removed From Steam

Hatred Keyart
"Hatred" is a twin-stick shooter in which you play as a lone gunman who goes on a rampage throughout New York. Destructive Creations

If we skip ahead to 2015, we find yet another game that was given the soft ban of an AO rating, only this time the studio decided to plough ahead with its launch regardless.

It is strange to think of how much outrage Hatred caused at the time, considering that it has now faded into relative obscurity. In a nutshell, the isometric shooter has you take on the role of a mass killer who embarks on a "genocide crusade" throughout New York, for no other reason than because he harbors a deep-seated contempt for society.

That is all there is to it. Players go around the neighborhood slaughtering people in droves and regain health by violently executing their incapacitated victims. In an interview with Polygon, Hatred's creative director, Jarosław Zieliński, even admitted that it was shallow, saying: "We are developing a game about killing people. [It] doesn't pretend to be anything else than what it is, and we don't add to it any fake philosophy."

Given the delicate subject matter, it was only inevitable that Hatred would spark debates about copycat violence, and it received incredibly scathing reviews upon launch. For example, The Guardian derided it for being "empty, forgettable and bland [with] nothing to say."

Of course, the game's release was also impeded by the fact that it received an AO certificate from the ESRB, preventing it from being sold at mainstream retailers and from being livestreamed on Twitch.

It was even briefly delisted on Steam, at which point gamers could not get it anywhere in the country. It has since returned to the digital storefront and has even had a few post-launch updates.

'RapeLay' Simulated Sexual Assault

RapeLay Screenshot
"RapeLay" was removed from store shelves in most nations around the world. Illusion

A Japanese import, RapeLay has been banned in countries like Argentina, Indonesia, and New Zealand. In it, players control a sexual predator tasked with stalking, groping, and raping multiple women.

The extreme content naturally attracted the attention of several media outlets back in 2006, including CNN. According to early coverage, one especially abhorrent scene had the player forcibly impregnate a woman and then urge her to get an abortion.

We only have those contemporary reports to go on though, as the game is near impossible to buy nowadays due to its AO rating. Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony and even the infamously lax Valve refused to carry it on their respective platforms. Meanwhile, one is not allowed to stream it on Twitch and it is impossible to find a physical copy of it anywhere in the U.S.

That being said, in the era of digital distribution, an AO rating is not the commercial death sentence it once was and the U.S. government never officially stepped in to ban RapeLay.

'Devotion' Was Pulled From Steam Globally

Devotion Game Screenshot
"Devotion" is a Taiwanese psychological horror game that was made unavailable for mocking the president of China. Red Candle Games

Unlike most of the other entries on this list, Devotion was never placed under the scrutiny of the U.S. government or hit with an "Adults Only" rating from the ESRB.

In fact, the Taiwanese horror game did not particularly offend anybody in the Western Hemisphere, nor did it inspire protests or raise concerns from parental groups. After all, it was just a walking simulator in which players were incapable of enacting violence or doing anything remotely provocative. They were just passive observers in a slow-burn ghost story, while creepy things happened around them.

Where Devotion ultimately fell afoul of censorship was overseas, on account of some memes that were featured in the game, likening Chinese President Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh. There were also a few more jokes at Xi's expense scattered throughout the virtual environment and players began to discover these over time.

The image of Winnie the Pooh has been enough to get certain films banned in China before, so it is hardly surprising that the Easter egg resulted in Devotion being pulled from the country's Steam page.

What was not expected though, was developer Red Candle Games taking things a step further by voluntarily delisting their product worldwide. As such, even though U.S. regulatory bodies had never mentioned Devotion before, it cannot be downloaded from Steam in America, or anywhere else for that matter.

In March 2021, Red Candle finally released an updated version of the title (sans Winnie the Pooh) through its own distribution platform. This makes Devotion one of the few examples of a game that managed to recover from a ban, although it is still outlawed in China.

Valve Refuses to Distribute 'Super Seducer 3'

Richard La Ruina in Super Seducer 3
In "Super Seducer 3," self-proclaimed pickup artist Richard La Ruina coaches players on how to get dates with women. PUA Training Limited

Released in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Richard La Ruina's Super Seducer was always going to cause a bit of a stir.

For those who are unaware, it is an educational simulator—presented by La Ruina himself—in which the self-proclaimed "pickup artist" coaches you on how to score dates with women, often by using psychological tricks. He walks you through a number of different scenarios, like how to stop a woman in the street, how to pick up dates in a bar, and how to turn a friend into a girlfriend.

The game was largely ridiculed online, where it became the focus of humorous "Let's Play" videos from the likes of Videogamedunkey, Jim Sterling and xQc. Many of these revolved around the player deliberately choosing the worst possible dialogue options, so that La Ruina would indecently expose himself, sniff a woman's hair or make lewd comments.

Not everybody took it so lightly though, with some activists vocally opposing La Ruina's methods and the advice that he was giving to men, describing it as "absurdly sexist." While Super Seducer's console ports were eventually canceled due to these controversies, it was still made available on Steam and spawned an entire trilogy.

In March 2021, La Ruina reported on Twitter that Super Seducer 3 had been "banned" from Steam, due to the storefront's policy on "showing sexually explicit images of real people." Although the pickup artist tried to appeal this decision, Valve maintained that it would never sell Super Seducer 3, leaving La Ruina without his only reputable distributor.

While it has been rejected by PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo and Steam, an "uncensored" version of Super Seducer 3 is now hosted on a few niche websites around the internet.

"Kill the F****t" Was Never Released

Kill the F****t (title censored) was not a major AAA release and was instead the product of a small independent studio that actively encouraged people to send "threats and hate mail."

The egregiously anti-LGBT title, made by Skaldic Games, puts the player in a shooting-gallery scenario and tasks them with gunning down gay and transgender characters. With a voiceover announcer that celebrates every single "Transgender Kill" and "Aids Carrier" elimination, it is manifestly homophobic and even penalizes you for shooting heterosexual people.

Many were horrified to see that the game was listed on Steam Greenlight (a now obsolete service that enabled users to vote on which indie titles should be published) to begin with and that it was not taken down immediately for propagating hate speech.

Eventually, the game was pulled from Steam and even Skaldic Games is no longer hosting it on its own website, meaning that any trace of Kill the F****t has been totally purged from the internet. Again, it was never officially banned by any regulatory bodies, yet that is only because it was taken down before they had a chance.

'Active Shooter' Was Canceled Worldwide

Billed as an authentic "simulation" of school massacres, Active Shooter sparked outrage from the parents of children who had been killed in real-life tragedies.

The game—which lets the player step into the shoes of either a lone gunman or the SWAT team sent in to neutralize him—was originally slated for release in June 2018. Yet once it was discovered that players could go on a shooting spree through school corridors, the title became the focus of intense media scrutiny around the world.

Anti-gun organizations, alongside the families of actual victims, condemned Active Shooter for being insensitive and for glamorizing real-life tragedies. Its release was promptly canceled by Valve (which rarely steps in to moderate this kind of thing) and the company refused to allow it on its Steam platform.

As a result, Active Shooter has never been available to purchase in the U.S.

'Paranautical Activity' Was Banned Over Death Threats

Paranautical Activity Screenshot
"Paranautical Activity" is a procedurally generated first-person shooter. Code Avarice

Paranautical Activity was temporarily banned in the U.S after its creator sent death threats to Valve's president Gabe Newell.

One of the developers of the first-person shooter, Mike Maulbeck, went on a lengthy tirade online when Steam failed to update Paranautical Activity's product description to reflect the fact it was no longer in early access. Concerned that this would confuse players and hurt sales, Maulbeck posted on Twitter: "I am going to kill gabe newell. He is going to die."

In response, Valve immediately removed Paranautical Activity from Steam and deactivated Maulbeck's admin account. A few months after this ban, developer Code Avarice sold the intellectual property rights to publisher Digerati Distribution, at which point the game was reinstated on Steam and a "Deluxe Edition" was released.

To find out more about media that has been outlawed domestically, read Newsweek's list of 20 movies that were banned in the United States.