Video games have always indulged our adolescent fantasies, and none more so than those revolving around playing with guns–and in some people’s cases, playing with hatchets, chainsaws, and cars.
In today’s Grand Theft Auto era, nothing is virtually sacred, but it took a whole lot of trailblazing to get this far.
So we at Complex took it upon ourselves to count down the most brutal video games of all time. What incited protests in the ’80s may seem quaint now, but don’t forget that rock ‘n’ roll was once the anti-Christ. Let the blame game begin!
1. Soldier of Fortune
An otherwise rote FPS stands out for the ability to blow off limbs, leaving bloody torsos behind. Did for war video games what Saving Private Ryan did for war movies–made shit real.
Fun Fact: Soldier of Fortune’s damage model engine, GHOUL, was the first to enable players to dismember enemies instead of just killing them. And thus a nation of Ritalin-addled sadists was born.
King’s Quest game designer Roberta Williams created this FMV horror game that has graphic gore and a rape scene. Despite–or maybe because of–the controversy, the title was a top seller on PCs that year.
Fun Fact: With 550 script pages and more than 800 scenes, the game took four months to film-including a week for the final chase scene. This is why we use computer people, people!
3. Super Columbine Massacre RPG
Inventive? Demented? Either way, Ledone’s freeware game was as un-P.C. as they come, inspiring V-Tech Rampage and other bad-karma homemade shockfests.
Fun Fact: The game’s developer paid exquisite attention to detail in crafting a 16-bit version of the Columbine tragedy, including rendering MIDI versions of Nirvana songs.
4. Ninja Gaiden
Dismemberment doesn’t necessarily mean death in this visceral game; you can cut off your enemies’ arms and legs, forcing them to fight you Monty Python style. Then you slice them up into bite-sized chunks. Yummy.
Fun Fact: Microsoft oh-so-cleverly hid a giant “X” logo in a museum scene in Ninja Gaiden 2. Totally h4x0r, Bill Gates!
When monsters kidnap Rick Taylor’s woman, he goes Jason Voorhees x Hacksaw Jim Duggan on ‘em in this side-scroller, which earned one of the first video game parental advisories.
Fun Fact: Namco Bandai cut BottleRocket from continuing the series, effectively shutting down their development studio. Fortunately they hired a few of the devs on to the internal team to help finish the 2010 iteration of the game.
Extra fun fact: Splatterhouse was also the first video game to be the central feature on horror magazine Fangoria’s cover.
Even by today’s standards, this torture-themed light-gun game is gruesome and nasty. It reportedly tanked in the U.S. but sold well in developing countries. Shudder.
Fun Fact: Why would you think that Chiller was inspired by Thriller? Maybe because the theme music on the MSX console version sounded a lot like the Michael Jackson song.
7. Thrill Kill
With its creepy S&M themes, the planned PlayStation fighter made Mortal Kombat look soft. EA absorbed the title after acquiring its original publisher, then shelved it and refused to sell it to another company.
Fun Fact: Wu-Tang Clan used the Thrill Kill engine to create their own game, Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style. Uh, good move, guys.
8. God of War
The raging and menacing Kratos provides loads of action-filled fighting filled with awesome moves conducted via gadgets and magical powers.
Fun Fact: While God of War 3 spells the end of the trilogy, John Hight admitted that it wasn’t the end of the franchise. There may yet be more Kratos for us. Extra fun fact: There is no CGI in GoW3. All cutscenes are made using the in-game engine, models, and assets.
9. Resident Evil
The godfather of the horror genre has spawned shelf-loads of sequels on every console, all based on the same premise: Blasting a zombie’s head off with a shotgun is bloody fun.
Fun Fact: The Japanese version of RE2 (Biohazard 2) not only made it easier for players with increased firepower and different item placement, but you couldn’t even be devoured by zombies! What is this, Cabbage Patch Kids Adventure on Colecovision?
The premise is sick: Trapped in a snuff-film-style reality show, you kill enemies in increasingly gruesome ways, using everything from plastic bags to crowbars to pickaxes. Humorlessly disturbing.
Fun Fact: Germany freaked out and confiscated all copies of the game. We’re anti-censorship and all, but we wouldn’t want Germans getting any ideas either.
11. Dead Space
In EA’s sci-fi survival horror game, your enemies are the ones who get creative ways to kill. Stay alert, lest you find your head bitten off or your torso ripped asunder.
Fun Fact: Thanks to the storyline and a fictional religion featured in the game, some believe Dead Space to be a critique of the Church of Scientology.
12. Mortal Combat
A coin-op classic, MK upped the bloody ante by adding realistic finishing-move fatalities, including the ripping out of hearts, heads, and spines. Unless you played the bitch-ass Super Nintendo version, that is.
Fun Fact: The original Mortal Kombat features Reptile as a secret-but unusable-character. You only play him in the subsuquent MK games. Gee, thanks for that.
No joke, but the family-friendly Wii brought us the bloodiest game ever.
Fun Fact: The look of the game is, not too surprisingly, inspired in part by Frank Miller’s Sin City. Does that even count as trivia?