Bad Influence’ Video Games: 5 Classics That Triggered Moral Panics Over The Years

There always seems to be a new reason why parents think that children are violent or immoral. Every generation has its biggest reason, and more recently, it has been video games that get a bad rap. Even going back to the Atari days, there have been some video games that have drawn a lot of negative attention for their content, some of which have created government action. Here are five classic video games that triggered moral panic over the years.

The Entire Grand Theft Auto Series

Rockstar’s “Grand Theft Auto” series has been one of the most popular in video game history, and it’s easy to see why. These are all masterpiece games for their time, starting with the top-down view and graduating into a 3-D model that allowed for one of the most immersive online action-gaming experiences. However, GTA hasn’t been without its controversy, which probably isn’t surprising based on the name of the series.

From the early days of GTA, there was an outcry from parents groups regarding the ability to steal cars and shoot police while hiring “ladies of the night.” Things ramped up with the releases of “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” when a mod was discovered that allowed you to fully simulate “adult relations.” To this day, advocacy groups speak out against the violence promoted in the GTA series, but it has only made the games more popular.


“Grand Theft Auto” isn’t the only series created by Rockstar that was met with a ton of controversy. In the 2003 game “Manhunt”, you take control of the character James Earl Cash, a prisoner on death row who finds himself forced into snuff films. This stealth game featured some of the most brutal death scenes in video game history, and the sequel released in 2007 received a rare “Adults-Only” rating.

That’s because the first “Manhunt” game drew so much attention from the US Government that more strict ratings were put into place so that games like “Manhunt” wouldn’t be in the same category as games like “Halo” or “The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion”. The fear of “Manhunt” was only driven up when a 17-year-old killed his 14-year-old friend in England while having a copy of the game in his bedroom.


Part of what has made “Grand Theft Auto” so popular is that it allows people who would never harm a fly to drive around in an open world and do whatever they want with no real-life consequences. “Postal” takes that to another level, and the game’s storyline even involves someone living a mundane life having a mental breakdown, and getting violent with anyone and everything that they see.

The game immediately drew criticism upon release in 1997, with many saying that it was encouraging players to start doing the same actions in real life. However, the developer “Running with Scissors” continued the series the following year with an expansion, and 10 main storyline “Postal” games have been released overall. The creator was even prosecuted for an “illegal depiction of violence” in Sweden, and some countries have banned the series altogether.

Mortal Kombat

When it comes to fighting games, “Mortal Kombat” is one of the top-tier franchises alongside the likes of “Street Fighter” and “Tekken”. When it was first released in 1992, it was massively popular but had a lot of parents grounding their children. “Mortal Kombat” was the fighting game that introduced “fatalities” which allowed players to dismember their opponents in shocking (at the time) ways.

This was the game that really got the government involved with video games, creating the ratings system that we all know today. On the other hand, “Mortal Kombat” helped usher in the era of a video game revitalization that brought people back to arcade machines while boosting console sales.


“Pokemon” seems like one of those games that’s incredibly harmless on the surface. You collect cutesy monsters as friends and train them to take on other “Pokemon” in sanctioned matches. When you start to think about it, it sort of sounds like dog fighting in that regard, but that’s not what got certain people in an uproar upon the game’s release in 1996. Instead, the game was criticized by Christian groups for several other reasons.

“Pokemon” characters evolve into a more powerful stage, and fundamentalists said that went against their beliefs. The groups also pointed toward themes of violence and the occult as to why the game was “anti-Christian,” but most people brushed these notions away. In fact, members of the Vatican even had to come out and say that they weren’t condemning “Pokemon” and called it innovative.

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