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ClassicRadar: "Mature" games that are actually mature

This month marks the five-year anniversary of GamesRadar, and to celebrate, we’re bringing back some of our favorite features from the past. The following originally posted in late 2008, which begs the question… What “mature” games released since then deserve to be added to the list? Add your suggestions in the comments section below.



Real world definition of "mature": Showing the mental, emotional, or physical characteristics associated with a fully developed person; involving serious thought.

Videogame definition of "mature": Shits, tits and gibs.

What is adult? According to ratings boards and hand-wringing politicians, the only qualifications necessary are a bucket of blood, a stream of foul profanity and a parade of naughty lady parts. Ironically, the very things that are included to win over immature teenage boys.

The following games, however, define adult in a different way. They tackle challenging themes, explore intellectual ideas and deal with complex characters in complicated relationships. They add shades of grey to an otherwise black-and-white form of entertainment.


Mass Effect

Should little kids play Mass Effect? No, but not because they might catch a glimpse of alien ass or learn how to digitally stimulate their “se”xbox, as the media would have you believe. The sci-fi epic simply wasn’t designed for children and, as such, deals with many issues that children wouldn’t understand.

Racism is addressed, as Shepard navigates a minefield of prejudice, intolerance and segregation between the game’s diverse species. Foreign policy is debated, too, with humanity’s brash and aggressive military actions earning both admiration and resentment across the universe. Parallels can even be drawn between the current economic crisis and Mass Effect’s main twist, both of which result from our choosing the path of willful ignorance and least resistance.

Morality, diplomacy, obedience, deception, death, love, and yes, sex – the list continues. Like the best episodes of Star Trek, Mass Effect is about far, far more than spaceships and laser guns.


Grand Theft Auto IV

Rockstar’s sandbox sagas are famous for being big. The cities are big. The missions are big. The casts of characters are big. Until recently, however, the ideas were not.

GTA IV changed everything. While Tommy Vercetti and Carl Johnson showcased the “American dream,” working from hoodlums to kingpins, Niko Bellic discovered that life in the West is often no better, no easier and no more ethical than war in the East. While his predecessors reveled in money, drugs and prostitutes, he found that material gains often require moral sacrifices. And while Vice City and San Andreas boiled down to basic revenge tales, GTA IV exposed how the pursuit of payback was slowly eating away at Niko’s soul.

Who knew the immigrant, so fresh off the boat, would come to understand our culture more insightfully than any protagonist before?


Braid

Some of the most mature games aren't even rated “Mature." Braid is legally appropriate for anyone over the age of 10, as the fairytale visuals, soothing music and bouncing pint-sized hero give the impression of an old-school Nintendo platformer. The subtext of this seemingly innocent quest, on the other hand, requires a bit of life experience to appreciate.
Just ask Soulja Boy.

In a kids’ game, for instance, the ability to time travel might nab an extra life or bop an extra enemy. In Braid, reversing the clock solves a series of mind-melting puzzles and, at the same time, symbolizes the haunting power of regret. If the protagonist could try everything over again - correct his past mistakes - would the Princess return? Would she ever have left? If he could slow down the world, or lead two lives at once, would that somehow help reclaim her?

We all wish we could erase our errors, or go back and try a different path in life, with the simple press of a button. Braid capitalizes on this universal longing and, without spoiling the end, also preys on it.


God of War

As these first few entries prove, some “mature” titles can embody both definitions of the word at once. Blood, gore, nudity and all the rest can coexist with – or even help enhance – the game’s serious adult themes.

God of War is a perfect example. On the surface, Kratos is just another psychopath protagonist; blood-letting, monster-shredding and wench-bedding are the only things that occupy his simple and undeveloped mind. Slaughter this. Sleep with that.

The deeper truth is that, after murdering his own family and being deceived by his own gods, Kratos is completely broken. His self-hatred and desire for punishment are, instead, directed perversely and violently at the outside world. In the words of Samuel Johnson, “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

Yeah, anytime you’re quoting a literary giant to describe a videogame, you know the latter must be about more than “blood, gore nudity and all the rest.”

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72 comments

  • Overlord153 - April 22, 2011 8:08 p.m.

    If i had to add one I would add TWETY. Why? Because it's questions why should we even talk to people let alone open up to them. ALso it asks what happens when you die.
  • Miles_Endsly - March 28, 2011 12:35 a.m.

    The New Pokemon game threw me through a loop in the ethics brought to light by N. Growing up with those games I never gave it a second thought to have my tiny turtle thing headbutt a giant rock just so I can be cool... GUILT!!!
  • Lando81 - March 15, 2011 3:08 p.m.

    @BellaKazza He's a right-wing freak like yourself. Feeling the need to censor what people view before they can decide for themselves. GTA doesn't make me want to murder people but you sure do.
  • ThePigHostage - March 15, 2011 1:32 a.m.

    Too bad they gave away all the twists in Amber. That sounded like something I would have liked to track down and try out for myself. Oh well.
  • Lando81 - March 14, 2011 11:04 p.m.

    @BellaKazza Jack Trenton.... IS THAT YOU?!?!?!
  • freddyqaqualung - March 14, 2011 10:54 p.m.

    @BellaKazza Good God I hope you're trolling.
  • MJHAYLETT - March 14, 2011 4:02 p.m.

    GTAIV was a depressing game to me coming from the fun of GTA 3, VC and SA. It also broke its own immersion as a adult tale told in an openworld where you hunt pigeons and can run down grannies willy nilly. Pick up a date, talk about your suffering while at the same time you have people bouncing off the hood of your car and does your date say anything or demand to get out of the car of a psycho? No. Now if GTAV is the same style I will be at least prepared for it and might forgive the broken immersion this time but GTAIV was a let down for me.
  • DecoyOctorok - March 14, 2011 3 p.m.

    It may seem strange, but I would add Super Mario Galaxy to the list solely because of Rosalina's Story. It seemed out of place in a Mario game but it was surprisingly poignant and definitely a tearjerker. I would love to see Pixar turn it into a fully animated short.
  • Crabhand - March 14, 2011 7:47 a.m.

    Somewhat ironic that an article about maturity can have comments that are so far from mature. Anywho, I would probably throw my hat in for Dragon Age. There is a great deal of racial tension and controversial actions taken by official institutions with a dickload of gray area in every moral decision.
  • Miles_Endsly - March 14, 2011 3:54 a.m.

    What ever happened to Spoiler Alerts?! Very disappointed in you. >(
  • TheJackOfHearts - March 14, 2011 3:09 a.m.

    It might have been mentioned, but "I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream" was a book before it was a video game.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - March 14, 2011 1:25 a.m.

    Definitly Red Dead Redemption. I still talk about the ending, and I know that as a kid I wouldn't have been nearly as moved by it. Maybe the Fallout series and Dragon Age serious, since most kids don't play RPGs.
  • FrozenImplosion - March 14, 2011 1:16 a.m.

    I noticed some people mentioning TWEWY... The World Ends With You dealt with pretty mature themes like finding yourself and building confidence, etc in Shiki, and then in Neku it's more about overcomign pessimism. There are even more in the themes going on in the overarching story than the simple ones going on with the characters though.
  • chriszewski - March 13, 2011 9:17 p.m.

    @BellaKazza "Black Swan is as far from a mainstream ticket-seller as it gets in cinema, but Fox did a great job on getting the word out and made a success out of it." -David Houghton's TLG article "If TLG includes a Natalie Portman & Mila Kunis sex scene, I'm pre-ordering it." -BellaKazza Really Bella?
  • Hamburgers - March 13, 2011 7:55 p.m.

    There's nothing mature about the steaming piece of pretentious bullshit that is Braid. Honestly GR, you have the dumbest opinions on shit like this.
  • tuomotaivainen - March 13, 2011 5:27 p.m.

    @BellaKazza People like you are the reason why we can't have nice things. That and the little kiddies that tend to get their hands on things they aren't supposed to.
  • FinderKeeper - March 13, 2011 5:50 a.m.

    What, no Duke Nukem? Those games explored the alienation (nay, *anomie*) of the postmodern male in Western society... X-D
  • Lando81 - March 13, 2011 5:18 a.m.

    @DreamWeaverPL Shut the fuck up douchebag.
  • Lando81 - March 13, 2011 5:15 a.m.

    @BellaKazza Are you retarded, or just incapable of realizing that these games can exist AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO PLAY THEM. If the offend you, don't play them. Simple as that ass wipe.
  • BurntToShreds - March 13, 2011 4:57 a.m.

    You actually tried to consider MGS4 as a "mature" game? It's just as goofy as the other Metal Gear Solid games! You get to roll around in a barrel, instant noodles are the best recovery item, and Johnny Sasaki actually craps his pants on-screen.

Showing 1-20 of 72 comments

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