Avert your eyes, children
Ah, that innocent ESRB rating known as "E for Everyone." Parents can rest assured that any E-rated game they buy their kids will be free of adult situations like sex, drug use, or gratuitous violence. OR WILL THEY!? Turns out, some of the most beloved games that children and adults alike have been enjoying for ages are actually harbingers of bodily destruction. The cutesy look of these games may deceive you--but when you actually stop and think about what's going on, you're liable to start gagging in disgust.
Yes, the most violent games can get pretty grisly in their depiction of bones breaking and blood gushing. But there's something even more sinister about implied violence, in games that simply lack the processing power to depict such horrifying acts of viciousness in full detail. It's high time these gore-fests targeted at kids were exposed for the atrocities they are. Don't believe me? Read on--but only if you have a strong-enough stomach.
Curb-stomping random passerby (Super Mario Bros.)
Have you ever watched Mario stomp on a Goomba's head? Like, actually looked at what's physically going on? Clearly, the Goomba's skeletal structure (if it even has one) cannot support Mario's heft, as it starts to cave in the moment his boot makes contact. Then, as Mario's mass continues to push down on the Goomba's cranium, it slowly flattens until--splurch--the Goomba simply ceases to exist.
Sound like something you might've seen before? Perhaps a gut-churning scene of this exact nature from American History X? One could argue that Mario is smashing this Goomba's skull into paste because of his irrational fear of the unknown, of a race different from his own. How else do you explain someone who chooses to crush a complete stranger's head with his foot?
Genocide of native peoples (Civilization 5)
Christopher Columbus is basically the Adolf Hitler of Italian explorers. Turns out, your history books lied to you: Columbus was a colossal, despoiling a-hole, as evidenced by his desecration of Hispaniola and its indigenous peoples. When he wasn't "requiring each adult to submit a specified quantity of gold, on pain of death," Columbus was having people "flogged, disfigured or executed without trial for minor infractions." Oh, and this monster of a man is one of the Great People you can lead in Civilization 5, capable of pretty much everything I just listed above.
Come to think of it, most of the Civilization series involves killing other cultures and assimilating them into your own race, refusing to stop until you've achieved global domination. And what do you think happens to dissenting regions once you've researched nuclear technology? Every time you play something in the 4X genre, you inevitably end up wiping out a nation of harmless natives, just for the fun of it. And you know what the game calls that? A win condition.
Impaling a person's brain (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker)
Link and Ganon (or in this case, Ganondorf) have been going at it for eons, so it's understandable that there'd be some tension between these timeless rivals. Still, no amount of personal history can prepare you for watching your hero, who's no older than a child, plunge a blade of pure steel deep into his enemy's head. If you could X-ray Ganondorf's body at the exact moment that Link defeats him at the end of Wind Waker, the Master Sword could probably be seen through G-man's neck and tickling the edge of his stomach.
Admittedly, it wouldn't be as cool an effect if, when Ganondorf subsequently turns into stone, he had a sword lodged in his belly instead of his face. Even so, the fact that Link didn't know this would happen means he simply saw fit to plunge cold steel deep between the eyes of another living person. And for whatever reason, Princess Zelda really doesn't see a problem with that.
Electrifying helpless animals (Pokmon)
You might've heard of this guy named Michael Vick. See, what he would do is train dogs to viciously attack each other for human amusement and gambling (possibly over trinkets like jewelry or Badges). If you are a dog lover, go to the next slide now. People have testified in court that when one of Vick's pit bulls didn't perform to his satisfaction, he would beat, drown, or electrocute them. And wait a second. This sounds awfully familiar.
When a Pokmon trainer tells Pikachu to use Thunderbolt against a wild, minding-its-own-business Growlithe, is that so different from the actions Vick was shamed and incarcerated for? When two Pokmon are forced to fight for sport--and, in the case of Pokmon Stadium, entertainment--aren't they as helpless as Vick's pit bulls were? Every time your Blastoise uses Skull Bash, Bite, Tail Whip, and Hydro Pump (all real attacks) on a defenseless Poochyena, just think: at this moment, you're no better than Michael Vick.
The live mummification of a teenage girl (Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand)
Hi, impressionable young gamers! Would you like to play as Nancy Drew while she tries to solve the mystery of a missing Mayan artifact that was stolen from a museum? Come on! (hours pass) Uh oh! Looks like the criminal caught you snooping around, and decided to trap you inside the stone monolith you had been investigating for clues. Quick! Solve this puzzle in complete darkness while an invisible timer ticks down! Oops, you didn't escape in time, and consequently suffocated. Now we're going to show you Nancy Drew's preserved-but-still-decomposing corpse.
The above pretty accurately describes how this Fatal Error scene goes down, one which actually isn't that shocking given the track record of the decidedly morbid Nancy Drew adventure games. It's not enough that you actually hear Nancy gasp her last breaths: to enhance the death scene, you're shown a newspaper from 700 years in the future, after your buried-alive body gets disentombed! How do I know that the mummy on the right, with the desiccated eyeballs and rotted lips, is our hero Nancy Drew? Because she's holding a magnifying glass. Duh.
Shooting a baby with a bazooka (Zombies Ate My Neighbors)
Surprise! Games that predate the ESRB can still get E-ratings, thanks to the magic of Nintendo's Virtual Console and Steam re-releases. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is one such game, with levels that ask of you something almost unspeakable: fire a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher into the soft flesh of a toddler. I mean, yes, it's a colossal toddler that will likely flatten you and/or sear your flesh with huge drops of irradiated milk from his bottle, but still.
Luckily, this baby won't explode into red-and-purple intestinal confetti when nailed by a rocketing missile; after enough shots, he'll simply revert back into an adorable little tyke that's ready for saving. And if you'd really rather not fire a bazooka into a baby's chest at point-blank range, there is an alternative--just chug the right potion, and you can punch that baby into submission as a hulking purple monster. Bit of a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-dont situation, really.
Bashing someone with a baseball bat (Super Smash Bros.)
You call it a Home-run Bat, and you love the way it sends your opponents rocketing off into the distance when you smack them with it. I call it a weapon of vicious savagery with one purpose: inflicting blunt force trauma. If you don't know, getting hit with the full-force swing of a baseball bat can cause internal bleeding, contusions, and the deformation of your hollow organs to the pointing of rupturing. As you might imagine, this kind of wanton destruction of your inner workings can easily turn fatal.
But when you're flailing around with a bat in hand during a five-stock round on Final Destination, you don't really think about all that, do you? You just smirk as Ness winds up, slams an aluminum club into the stomach of his enemy, and adds a few points of damage percentage to their frail body. When it comes to bruised spleens and pulverized livers, ignorance is bliss.
Eating someone alive (Kirby's Dream Land)
"I think I'll eat your heart." That's what Hannibal Lecter whispers into Edward Norton's ear at the beginning of Red Dragon, implying that some seriously cannibalistic dining is about to go down. But that lovable pink puffball Kirby doesn't even give his victims a heads-up; he simply devours strangers on sight, saying nothing with a wide smile on his face. And Kirby eats his prey raw--no need for fava beans and a nice Chianti on the side.
Think about what it must be like for King Dedede's poor minions, who thought they could stand a chance against Kirby and his vehemently sucking mouth. First, these baddies felt the vacuum-like pull of Kirby's gaping maw, unable to run away until it was too late. Then, in an instant--darkness, Kirby's lips pursing behind them as they tumbled down his slimy gullet. For the next six hours, the victims and their screams of pain would be stifled by Kirby's thick, rosy exterior as they slowly melted in stomach acid.
Using your own decapitated head as a weapon (DecapAttack)
Perhaps this is indicative of the differences between Western and Japanese gaming, and our seeming obsession with ultra-violence. In the original version, named Magical Hat no Buttobi Tabo! Daibken, you played as a cute l'il wizard who tossed a magical companion at enemies and swung at close-up enemies with a mechanical boxing glove. But in our version, we get a reanimated mummy that hurls skulls like projectiles, biting anyone who gets too close with the face embedded in his chest.
Oh sure, call it cartoony and harmless if you must. But try to envision the terror of someone running at you, severing their own neck mid-sprint, then chucking their still-smiling head at you like a fleshy medicine ball. Really picture it. Imagine what catching that head in your hands would be like. Mortifying.
Brutality beyond reckoning
So there you have it--E-rated games that besmirch everything the ESRB stands for. Have I missed any other ludicrously violent actions that can easily be performed in a video game? Tell me all about it in the comments below, so that I can go to the nearest game store and demand that they stop selling such corrupting, savage dreck to innocent kids.