There are controversial books, movies, and art. But I think video games have always taken the largest of all the controversy. The reason is that video games allow the player to be in on the controversy, to control the actions that are controversial.
All of these games that were released created a lot of controversy. But there is a something good that I want to say. None of these games ever got banned in the US, not that I know of. Many of them got banned from other countries. Many of them are still banned. For once the US can stand proudly for being the strongest defender of the freedom of speech ahead of all countries in the world.
This will will be in chronological order. Tell me if you think I missed an important game.
1976: Death Race. It is silly to look at this game now and call it "controversial" when compared to all the games which are made now. But this game is the mother of all controversial video games. The graphics are terrible and there is hardly any violence visible, but when this game came out there sure was a lot of controversy. The game is a 2D (obviously, it is 1976 for Science's sake!) racing game where the objective of the game is to drive over gremlins, kill them, and they scream a sound of pain as you drive them over. That is it. When you look at this game today you would say to yourself, "that is it?!". But it did cause a lot of controversy, because people, well, to put it nicely, are stupid and fearful. Protests resulted from this game. There are even reports of people burning arcade consoles that featured this game and throwing them into the street. The message of course was: artifical make believe violence is bad, but real life violence in response to violence is okay.
1982: Custer's Revenge. This is one of the worst games ever made in gaming history. The worst game that I know of is "Big Rigs", but that is a separate discussion. This game is unbelievably terrible. The graphics are horrible. And I think the entire point of releasing this game was to offend as many people as possible, not because it had anything of value. The game is very simple. You are a naked cowboy with an erect penis. You need to get across the screen, by avoiding flying arrows on you, and rape a helpless Indian women. The game also shows the sexual intercourse that is taking place between your charachter and the Indian. Surly, there was no point to this game. It was probably done solely for the reason to offend as many people as possible. It definitely succeeded. It made Indians angry. It especially made feminists angry. Made the parents angry.
1986: Chiller. This game managed to push too far and scare the people of the UK that they permanently banned it. I believe that to this day this game is banned. It makes no sense. It is such an old game with terrible graphics but still banned. The objective of the game is to score points by shooting people, their body parts, and various forms of torture, before the time runs out. I never played it. Sounds pretty stupid to me. But it did cause quite a bit of controversy.
1992: Wolfenstein 3D. Ah, finally we get to an important game. Unlike all the previous games I have mentioned, this game is a revolution. This game is among one of the most important games made in gaming history. It revolutionized first-person shooters (my favorite genre). This game itself is not exactly the greatest game of all time, but it is pretty good. It had great reception when it got released. This game makes me happy, I played this game when I was a little boy. I still remember it. Wolfenstein 3D is a first-person shooter game set in a Nazi castle, called Castle Wolfenstein. The objective of the game is to kill Nazis and to get out of the castle, and to overall fight evil. This is a violent game, as you kill Nazis and their dogs. Wolfenstein 3D is also filled with a lot of Nazi imagery. The main theme for this game is Horst-Wessel Leid, the Nazi national anthem. There are pictures of swastikas and Hitler everywhere. Wolfenstein 3D created such a controversy that it is, to this very day as I write this, permanantely banned in Germany. The Germans banned this game not because it involves killing Germans and Nazis, no no, of course not, they claim it is rather because Nazi imagery is censored in Germany. Because of its deep controversy and violence Wolfenstein 3D has been remade into much more friendly version, which, to but it briefly, sucks. If you want to play this game, play the original, it is pretty good and fun, even though it is almost 20 years old.
1992: Mortal Kombat. Another game that I adore ever since I was a little kid. Played this one as a little boy too. Mortal Kombat is a revolutionary and important game. Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are the first fighting games developed that influenced the rest of the genre. Unlike Street Fighter which featured more anime looking (it was a Japanese game after all) fighting, Mortal Kombat featured realistic, bloody and gory fighting. There was a lot of blood in Mortal Kombat. Furthermore, you were able to kill your opponent in a gory manner. You can rip off the head of your opponent, for example, with the spine still attached. Or you could have punched so hard into the chest of your opponent that you broke the rib cage and got to the heart, then you would rip out the beating heart watching your enemy fall to death. This game was so controversial that the US established a rating system for games because of Mortal Kombat.
1993. DooM. This game is unbelievable. Another game I played as a little kid. But this game is really spectacular. There are some people who go so far and call this the greatest game of all time. I would not exaggerate its greatness that much, I would definitely put it on the top 10 list of all games, perhaps even on the top 5 list of all games, but not #1. DooM was influenced by Wolfenstein 3D. Whereas, Wolfenstein was a very plain game, DooM expanded on the concept of Wolfenstein and created a more realistic environment of Hell. DooM is a bloody and gory game. Which is what made is so controversial. Not only did you shoot your enemies to death. You were able to blow them up, into pieces, with a rocket launcher, or an explosion. You also had the ability to saw through your enemies using a chainsaw. DooM was also set in Hell. There was a lot of Satanism references in this game, which even further added to the controversy. Though by today's standards the graphics are really bad and it is hard to see exactly what is so controversial. But for its time it was highly controversial.
1996. Duke Nukem 3D. Influenced by both DooM and Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem 3D expanded the first-person genre. Duke Nukem had already inherited the violence and the gore that was passed on from DooM and Wolfenstein. But in addition, and what most likely made this game controversial, was its sexual references. Your main charachter, Duke Nukem, found himself seeing some nude girls or some videos of dancing girls within the game. Duke Nukem pushed on the whole controversial video game movement by combining sexuality with violence. This is a pretty awesome game too.
1997. Carmaggeddon. Is this the game that influenced the notorious Grand Theft Auto series? Perhaps, we will never know. The game is a racing game, with a car, in where the objective is to drive over civilians in the streets. You kill innocent people in the game by driving over them. The game does certainly sound stupid, but it had great reception with great reviews for its time. Violence in video games was now mainstream in gaming culture. So there was little complaint about the violence. Carmaggeddon pushed the controversy put using innocent civilians. So it was not just violence, but violence against the innocent.
1997. Postal. This game sucks. It is a piece of garbage. I think that just like Custer's Revenge the entire point of Postal was to offended as many people as possible. There is no objective in this game. It is just a running around on a rampage game in first-person mode and killing people. You can shoot them or you can cut them up into pieces. Once they are dead you can mutilate their bodies some more. Or if you prefer you can light them on fire. Let us also not forget your powerful ability to urinate on people. You can light people on fire (oh and dogs too), watch them die, then cut them up with a sword, and finish off by urinating on their body parts. You also are able to shock people (with a stun gun) until they urinate themselves, take out a shovel and wack them to death. The game also has stereotypes about different kinds of people, for example, gays are shown to be these really weak men. And other kinds of people you kill have their own stereotypes. It is not hard to make a game that is controversial. What is hard is to make a game that is great and controversial at the same time. What surprises me is how this game got an extension to it as Postal 2 and even more surprising Postal 3 is coming out soon, I guess people really enjoy these kind of mindless rampages.
2001. Grand Theft Auto 3. It is impossible to talk about video game controversy without ever mentioning Grand Theft Auto. Every single GTA game brought about controversy, the first two much less because they were simple graphic 2D games. But all of them brought controversy, especially the third one. In GTA 3 you play as an escaped convict. You get yourself a job by working for crime. The game features drugs, sexuality, and violence, especially violence against the law. This was part of the big controversy. War games at least make you play as the "good" guys. But in GTA you play as the "bad" guy. You kill people for money, you rob banks, you get involved in drug wars, and with prostitutes. Parents got really angry with this game believing it is teaching their children all of these terrible values. My favorite part of GTA 3 was that you can hire yourself a prostitute to increase your health, as you fuck her and pay her money, you can beat her up with a baseball bat, kill her, and then rob her of the money you just paid her. Unlike other bad controversial games, GTA was revolutionary, this game revolutionized the open-ended environment that you found in this game. This was a fantastic game with great story line. One of the great games in all gaming history.
2002. BMX XXX. This game sucks. As the title suggests this is a sexual game with bikes. And that is exactly what it is. It is a biking racing game that featured naked girls, strippers, and unlocked videos of dancing girls. There was nothing violent in the game but the sexuality made the game very controversial. The funny thing is that in Europe this game was not so controversial. Europeans are not so worried about sex, but they are worried about any sort of violence. Americans are not worried about violence, but they are worried about sex. In Australia this game got banned.
2003. Manhunt. It is hard to gain controversy in violence due to that violence is now everywhere in gaming culture. But Manhunt did it. Manhunt put the player into the role of a serial killer. You play in a third person view of a serial killer. You do not only kill people, but your task is to kill them in gruesome ways. The more gruesome the more points. If you simply shoot an enemy you get little score, but if you strangle them from behind with wire you get more points. Some of the methods of execution are even more cruel and gruesome than that. Manhunt got into a lot of controversy for its increadibly cruel uncensored scenes. This game is banned in New Zealand (illegal to even own this game), banned in Australia, and in Germany. This game had very little controversy in America, though, but this is not surprising. In the UK this game was blamed on the murder of a 14 year old boy by another friend who was claimed to have been obsessed with this game. Manhunt is decent game, but not that good.
2003. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Grand Theft Auto 3 was not done with making parents angry. Rockstar soon released a follow up game which allowed the player even more freedom to destroy the world around them. Vice City continued the same themes of violence, sexuality, prostitution, and drugs, as the third GTA game. It was again targeted by angry parents who complained that this game teaches their kids about crime. Vice City, I would say, was a little better than the third GTA game, but GTA 3 had a better story. GTA Vice City is also set in a ScarFace setting. If you ever watched the really controversial movie of its time, ScarFace, you would immediately be able to realize that the plot and settings in Vice City exactly resemble the same plot and settings in ScarFace.
2005. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Grand Theft Auto does it again. Another continuation of the same old crime elements of violence, drugs, sex, and prostitution. But San Andreas was more controversial than all other Grand Theft Auto games. Because in San Andreas there was a sex scene in where you recieve a blow job from a girl, Oh my science! To be fair the controversy was not whether this game should be banned or not, but the controversy was whether such a game can be sold to minors for showing a sex scene. The US House of Representatives, on C-SPAN, devoted their time in discussing this game. I am not joking. I once was watching C-SPAN and I saw the House discussing this game. I guess the economy is not important, I guess the war is not important, I guess the destruction of freedoms is not important, all what is important is whether or not San Andreas can be sold to minors. I never played San Andreas so I cannot say how it compares to GTA 3 or Vice City, though the reviews says it is about of the same quality, just a little less better - in other words, really good.
2007. BioShock. To be fair I never played BioShock. But I really want to. BioShock seems to be one of those really deep video games. BioShock is inspired by Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged". The game is set in a city, the Rapture, which is free from government oppresion and the oppresion of religion. Indeed, the opening entrance title in the city reads, "No Gods. No Kings. Only Man". Everyone in Rapture is able to rise to his greatest heights without worrying about smashing his competitors. Here is the opening speech of the game. This game is phenomenal. Its MetaCritic rating is at 96 (out of 100). It has among the highest rating of any video game, just behind Half Life, Half Life 2, Orange Box, and GTA 4. The only controversy within this game was its use of little girls. To advance your charachter you need to harvest little children. Clearly, the controversy was the use of children in a negative setting. But this controvesy never really escalated.
2007. Manhunt 2. When Manhunt 2 came out you could already sense that this game was going to be controversial by just considering the controversy the first one caused. Manhunt 2 made torture more realistic by allowing the player to use this controller as if he was moving his arm. So if you cut someone up with a buzzsaw you need to move your control in the direction you would like to saw your victim. Manhunt 2 simply extended the torture and cruelty of the first Manhunt, it never got that much attention as the first one did. The game itself was nothing great at all. It has mixed reviews, most of which give it a pretty bad score.
2008. Grand Theft Auto 4. Seriously what is it with Grand Theft Auto games? Every time a new one comes out it gains a lot of controversy. That is the one unchanging law about Grand Theft Auto games, there is always some controversy. I remember when I used to watch YouTube discussions back in 2008 there were a lot of references to GTA. I seen Christians going after this game and saying how terrible it is, I seen atheists defending this game as free speech, with the funny part of no one actually playing it. It is amazing just how much controversy this game has caused. Perhaps even more controversy than the first controversial game, Death Race. There is even an entire Wikipedia article all devoted to the controversies of this game. Hillary Clinton, the anti-freedom loving fascist, went after this game. The council of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), or which I like to call, "mothers who have way too much time on their hands" went after this game because you can drive under the influence of alchohol in this game. There are stories within the US and UK of people who terrorized people who brought this game, or stores which sold this game. Which tells us the great message: it is wrong to play artifical make believe games of violence, but violence in real life is perfectly alright. In New York City (which seems to be the location of a GTA 4) there were blames of putting crimes on this game as an inspiration. GTA 4 got banned in Thailand because of a story of a kid who killed someone for money to play this game. And not let us forget sexuality in GTA, they featured a nude male in this game, which I guess did not make that many people angry because feminists are only angry with naked women, not men.
2009. Left 4 Dead 2. It is funny how Left 4 Dead, a game where you play with four teammates and fight a zombie infestation never got this sort of controversy, but the follow up game did. This game is very violent and graphic. But there was other sort of controversies sorrounding it also. In the UK the cover for the game was required to change because the peace symbol, for some reason, is considered to be offensive for English, what a bunch of pussies. Not a surprise that this game got banned in Germany, as Germany now has a big giant hard-on to ban any violent game that shows severed human body parts. This game got banned in Australia too for its extreme violence. The game was also called racist because it showed some black zombies, oh no. Showing all white zombies, that is okay, that is alright, but the moment a black zombie is used, oh my Science, no, no, the racism is unbearable.